To try and tackle the problem of poverty and plastic waste in one move, some really interesting startups are springing up. What is their goal? Build houses out of recycled plastic. In today's age, plastic is one of the most dangerous wastes for the planet and at the same time, poverty continues to run rampant in developing countries.
Plastic is a danger to the environment: how to solve the problem?
Plastic waste is one of the most dangerous and abundant materials on our planet:
- The amount of plastic thrown away each year is so much
- Plastic pollutes the oceans; about 10-20 million tons of plastic waste are dumped in the seas
- Some types of plastics have an extremely long decomposition time, up to 1,000 years
Trying to reduce their production would be very important to safeguard the planet, but there are also other ways to overcome this huge problem. For example, there are those who have invented a really interesting way to reuse plastic and, what's more, it is an excellent solution to support families in need.
This is what a Norwegian and a Mexican start-up have been doing for a few years now: they have found a way to reuse plastic, using the pieces of waste to build affordable homes!
The example of Othalo
Othalo will start with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa to create affordable housing. The challenge with traditional construction is that it is neither cost-effective nor sustainable. With one billion people already living in slums, the urgent need for affordable housing is undeniable and is expected to increase to 360 million units by 2050 from its current number of 160 million. The UN considers the housing crisis one of the priorities to be urgently addressed.
Othalo promises to develop its first set of construction and design elements for affordable housing projects starting in sub-Saharan Africa and plans to begin mass production later this year.
Othalo wants to produce homes on a large scale, using local waste plastic as the building material, through upcycling plastic waste. Not only will this help "recycle" the Plastic, but it will create jobs in collection, manufacturing, home installation, plumbing, electricity and management.
According to Othalo, there is no way to build affordable housing with the conventional building materials used today: the proposed housing solution can be used as detached homes, small condominiums and larger structures and buildings with several apartments.
Othalo's technology (patent pending) ensures that the cost of production is fast and the construction of the homes is just as fast. We're talking days instead of weeks and months from production to finished home.
Another interesting element of Othalo is the modular construction model, which makes the construction versatile and adjustable to fit the intended use.
The typical use for modular construction is living area, office area, sleeping area and storage.
The example of EcoDomum
The EcoDomum project is the brainchild of Carlos Daniel González, founder and CEO since 2013. Gonzalez's home country of Mexico is one of the largest consumers of plastics in the world, but it is also a major producer: "Since I was a child, I remember seeing all this plastic and the contamination it caused, for us and for animals. I've always cared about the environment, so I decided I had to do something to find a solution."
And so he did! Gonzalez has found a way to make a new eco-sustainable frontier: recycled plastic houses. The startup is specifically in the business of making reused plastic panels that he uses to build low-cost housing. EcoDomum's goal is ambitious:
- Reduce waste in the world by finding them a new home
- Help Mexicans who live in extreme poverty
EcoDomum's project not only finds a solution to Mexico's massive consumption of plastics, but also lends a hand to those who cannot afford a home. In Mexico, some 11.5 million people still live in situations of severe poverty, living on less than 1.25 $ a day.
How does the transformation process work in EcoDomum?
EcoDomum follows the whole flow, from the collection of plastic to the construction of the houses, passing through the assembly of the panels that make them up:
- The company collects all types of plastic, such as bottles and old toys
- It separates materials to find the types that dissolve without emitting harmful fumes
- Selected plastics are fed into a machine that cuts them up
- To arrive at 100% recycled plastic houses, materials are heated in a special oven for about half an hour
- The actual panels are created: the liquid passes through a hydraulic press that compresses the plastic and crystallizes it
- Eco-friendly panels are used for the walls and roof of homes
What EcoDomum's recycled plastic houses look like
These green panels for homes measure 2.5×1.2×0.10m. Homes built with this solution usually consist of:
- Two bedrooms
- Living room
In total they offer a space of about 40 square meters, one of our studio apartments.
It takes about 80 panels to make an EcoDomum sustainable house. And since the main component is plastic, it can last a really longtime.
Recycled plastic houses are extremely fast to put up: in a week 's time you can build a house made with two tons of plastic. The price? A house with recycled plastic walls can cost around 300€.
For us at R5 Living, it really is a green solution and a great support for the poorest populations. Not only that, from our point of view Plastic is too demonized and we have always tried to spread the message of Smart Plastic and Stupid Plastic. Plastic is a precious material that should be used with Intelligence and where it is the best possible option. On the contrary, it makes no sense to use it to contain detergents that can travel concentrated, while it should be used "refillable" to contain them once at destination.
Buy our smart solution against the unnecessary waste of Plastic, discover our kit The FOUR5.