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There is more plastic in the ocean than ever before, but plastic production isn’t slowing down. Over 99% of plastics come from chemicals sourced from oil and gas production – contributing massively to climate change. There are lots of easy ways you can cut down your single-use plastic, but what should you do with the plastic that you can’t avoid? Ecobricks are an ethical way of using up the plastic that can’t be recycled and won’t break down.

What is an ecobrick? An ecobrick is created by filling a plastic bottle with clean, dry plastic until it’s packed tightly and can be used as a building block.

What are ecobricks used for? The plastic in an ecobrick is very durable and will never break down, making it an ideal building material. They’re used in developing countries to construct furniture and even buildings.   In South Africa there are many sustainable construction projects underway, including outdoor classrooms, and community gardens.

What are the advantages of ecobricks? Ecobricks are a great way to recycle plastic that doesn’t break down and would most likely end up in landfill, or worse, the ocean. But there are lots of other great things about ecobricks:

  • Plastic is actually a very useful material – we’re just producing too much of it and disposing of it in an unsustainable way. The characteristics that make plastic so difficult to dispose of – its durability, longevity and water resistance – also make it a brilliant building material.
  • They encourage you to reduce your plastic waste. As you see how much rubbish you put in an ecobrick, you’ll see how much you’re throwing away. This can help you cut down on what you’re buying and ultimately produce less waste.

How do you make an ecobrick?

  1. Choose a bottle. Any size bottle will work as an ecobrick, but the average size tends to be between 500ml to 2L. You should also make sure that you’re using a bottle from a product that you use regularly – you don’t want to end up having to buy a plastic bottle just to make an ecobrick!
  2. Prepare your plastic. Any plastic that you put in your brick needs to be clean and dry – any dirt can lead to microbiological growth and methane forming inside your brick. If you put dirty plastic inside your ecobrick it can make the bottle bloat and the cap can even pop off.
  3. Get a stick. You’ll need a stick to poke the plastic in your bottle down so you can fit as much as possible in! A wooden spoon handle will work best, and it should have a rounded tip to make sure it doesn’t pierce the bottle when you are squashing the plastic down.
  4. Be careful not to overfill your brick. Although your brick should be packed full of plastic, it shouldn’t be pushing against the lid because it could end up making the lid come off. The brick will be very strong though.  It will be impossible for your to squash it even a little bit with your hands. 

What plastics can you put in your ecobrick?

  • Plastic bags
  • Photo paper
  • Crisp packets
  • Food containers
  • Straws
  • Cling film
  • Plastic fruit and vegetable packaging like the nets and sleeves.
  • Polystyrene (or Styrofoam) – this is a petroleum-based product that can’t be recycled. Lots of products are made out of this including food containers and packaging.

Don’t forget that you can always cut up plastic to go in your ecobrick, even if it seems too big.

Can black plastic be recycled?

In short, yes, black plastic can be recycled. However, most local councils don’t actually offer black plastic recycling. This is because it’s quite tricky to sort black plastics from other materials.

So, should you include black plastic in your ecobrick? Yes – because unless you are 100% sure that your local council can and are recycling black plastic, the chances are that it will end up in the ocean.

Good luck and happy building!

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