Seeing how plastic waste is marring the environment has prompted two guys to find a way
to deal with the problem – by recycling them into building blocks.
Patrick Mills and Tom Woodfort have built a wooden press that can shape unwanted polyethylene plastics into building blocks. They derived the idea from the Ubuntublox made by Harvey Lacey; he’s the man who uses polystyrene food clamshells and agricultural waste to make blocks to build houses in Haiti.
Mills and Woodfort have teamed up with FuzeEcoteer to conduct a conservation project with the Batek orang asli of Merapoh, Pahang. They have been conducting classes to pass on the knowledge of building the press to the Batek villagers. This will provide them with an alternative source of income. So far, they have trained two men.
The duo’s first press was a heavy contraption made of metal and according to Mills, was a nuisance to work with. Woodfort, a carpenter, then came up with a wooden version which works better.
To make the building blocks, plastic waste – everything from supermarket bags to chip bags and instant noodles packaging – are tied up in a bigger plastic shopping bag. This goes into another plastic bag for added strength. These bags are then placed in the compartment of the press and compressed to form a sturdy block. The press is designed with a lever that makes it easy to compress the plastics.
The blocks can be used like regular bricks. They are cemented together, reinforced with wire mesh, and then coated with sand and cement. The first object they built was a garden planter.
Almost anything can be made with these blocks – such as garden walls, benches, tables, path edgings and sun beds – so long as it is not a load-bearing object or close to a heat source.
The wooden presses can be purchased at RM350 each. FuzeEcoteer hope to see 100 presses up and running, which will help reduce plastic waste in our environment. Everyone can support their effort by getting a group of friends to gather plastic waste from each household and recycle them into plastic building blocks. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.