Data + Design Project

Plastic Bottles: 20 Times stronger than Bricks

Wednesday 11.16.2011 , Posted by
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Life in Africa has many challenges: from disease to poverty and war. The continent also has a reputation for extreme difficulties that are fixable, but a lack of resources often prevents the problems from being solved.This is where resourcefulness comes into play: if you don’t have what you need make do with what you already have. A surplus of empty plastic bottles is something that not only affects Africa, but the entire planet.

In a small village in Nigeria, a solution has been applied to not only provide shelter in a poverty stricken country, but find a use for refuse. Packing sand into plastic bottles is a technique that started nine years ago in India, South and Central America.  Named “bottle brick” technology, the compacted sand inside the bottles is almost 20 times stronger than bricks.  The best part is that in a region that does not have much money to spend on building materials, the houses are estimated to cost 1/3 of a house made of concrete and bricks.

Adding to the appeal of the simple technology, the houses are ideal for the hot Nigerian climate because the bottle bricks buffer the house from the intense heat. Also, in a place known for violence, the houses are completely bullet proof. Bottles are mostly sourced from hotels, restaurants, homes and foreign embassies, so the 500 million bottles that are discarded each year in Nigeria alone are literally finding new homes instead of landfills or the ocean.  The circular houses look cool too with the exposed round bottles producing a unique design.

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Photos above from Ego Nigeria

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Steven Shoppman

Written by Steven Shoppman



Steven Shoppman is a contributor to The Visual News and an avid explorer. In 2009 he received the honor of "Adventurer of the Year" by National Geographic Adventure Magazine for his expedition driving two trucks around the world. The expedition was named "The World by Road" He continues to plan new adventures and you can visit his personal website to learn more about him at www.stevenshoppman.com.

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Comments

  1. Absolute genius!

    (Though I DO expect to see a link to some evidence for the “20x stronger claim” before seeing it in a headline.)

  2. What a brilliant idea! Why on earth are we just land-filling them? This should be taken up with your local MP and used either as an export aid drive or just a collect and transport charity and it could be used all over the world!
    I shall poke my MP to see if anything can be done.

  3. Westerners always expect Africans to do stupid shit like this to save the planet and “help” people in need, while they would never consider building a house out of garbage themselves. These ideas, like the solar panels Kenyans were required to use which could not even cool a mini fridge, end up being infeasible, but noone ever talks about that. It’s just another reason for Africans to ignore westerners and build their own infrastructure, environmental whackos be damned.

  4. Igor, I’m sure that they have enough bottles; see above, they are using some of “the 500 million bottles that are discarded each year in Nigeria alone.” The point was to solve their own waste and housing problems at once, which they’re doing. Rather than use fuel to transport empty bottles worldwide to solve your communities’ waste problems, I’d suggest looking into opportunities to recycle the plastics or use them as a building material locally.

  5. @Lee, are you serious?! This home is beautiful and unique! I’m a Sydney business owner and I’d LOVE to live in this kind of home, instead of a tiny city apartment. Plastic is not rubbish just because it’s been used once before! This house is AMAZING.

  6. @Lee: Whatever. I am a Westerner, and I think this is ingenious. I would absolutely live in this house when it is finished. It is aesthetically beautiful as well as being green.

  7. We must all spread the word. This is one of the best stories I’ve seen in a long time!

  8. We dfeitniely need more smart people like you around.

  9. Seems like a brilliant idea to me and looks great as well! I wonder about fumes though. Would there be a buildup of toxic fumes? Just wondering….

  10. Having lived in West Africa I am not surprised at their ingenuity, but extremely happy and impressed to see houses built in this way.

  11. I live in SOUTH Africa where our corrupt goverment does not build houses for us, for me i think i can live in that house it is very baeutiful.Our goverment must consider this .

  12. Its great that this works for them, but at the same time the process time/effort of compacting sand into a bottle that hard makes this entire idea unrealistic on a global scale.

  13. Are you kidding Basil? Do you how many people sit all day breaking big rocks into little rocks so that they can be sold. The life of a very poor person is very often that of doing tedious and menial work for very very little money. People absolutely have the time and generally would make the effort to fill bottles with dirt in order to then build themselves a real house. It beats the mud huts that many people live in. They take the time to make mud bricks, which eventually erode from the rains. This is very realistic on a global scale. Certainly more so than chopping down more forests for wood houses or spending tons of money on concrete for cinderblock houses. I don’t know your reality, but I see this reality on a daily basis.

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