An estimated 1.2 million tonnes of plastics packaging were consumed by UK households in 2013, according to the Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection Survey. Around 15 million PET plastic bottles are binned every day in the UK, with the bulk of it ending up in landfill sites, or as litter. If not recycled, plastic takes hundreds of years to break down naturally, and plastic litter is a serious threat to our wildlife and a major cause of ocean pollution.
One of the most innovative ways to tackle the issue of excess plastic waste is the development of the Plastic Bottle Village in Panama, where homes are built using revolutionary techniques in eco-building – recycled plastic bottles are repurposed as a core building material.
Located in the heart of Isla Colón in Bocas Del Toro, the Plastic Bottle Village is an eco-residential community set within 83 acres of the island’s established jungle interior. Here, a two-storey house measuring 100 square metres is rebuilt with 14,000 plastic bottles utilised as insulation. Not only is this an excellent way to repurpose plastic waste, the homes are also built in a shorter time, and there are huge savings in construction costs, compared to traditional materials used locally.
There are numerous other benefits of a plastic bottle home. The recycled plastic insulation offers cooler temperatures indoors than concrete block walls, due to the air in bottles acting as an insulator.
Furthermore, plastic bottle homes boast higher resistance against earthquakes. To resist an earthquake, a building must have a degree of flexibility. Plastic Bottle Village houses contain panels built with steel rebars welded into cages that are filled with PET plastic bottles and covered with concrete, giving them a balanced mix of flexibility and rigidity.
As the bottles are tightly secured in place within concrete-covered mesh cages, they are not exposed to direct sunlight or heat, keeping them cool. Natural gravity ventilation within the walls allows a constant flow of fresh air to circulate through the panels, avoiding a build-up of mould, mildew and fumes. This ensures that the insulation is non-carcinogenic.
Countries with extensive coastlines and islands are at a higher risk of natural disasters, such as a tsunami or rising sea levels. A useful feature of a plastic bottle home is its metal walls filled with PET plastic, which can double as a float or raft should a tsunami occur.
The Plastic Bottle Village project is spearheaded by its Canadian founder, Robert Bezeau, who has plans for 120 homes to be constructed over three phases of development, along with an eco-lodge that will be integrated with the community’s fruit, vegetable and herb garden. Bezeau is strongly advocating the reuse of plastic bottles for various other applications, such as rapid temporary shelters, farm buildings, swimming pools, water catchment tanks, agriculture water ways, commercial warehouse construction, and roads.
However, this is not the first time plastic bottles have been repurposed for construction. A few years ago, the first plastic bottle house was built in northern Nigeria by an NGO, Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE).
Constructed entirely out of plastic bottles, the two-bedroom bungalow in the village of Yelwa is reported to be earthquake resistant, fireproof, and maintains a comfortable interior temperature.
For more information about the village in Panama, visit the Plastic Bottle Village website at http://www.plasticbottlevillage.com/english/