The oceans are choking with plastic. Plastic waste enters in the food chain, settles on the ocean floor, gets washed off the beaches, or gets stuck floating due to ocean circulation. A whooping estimate of 79,000 metric tons of plastic floating only in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, covering an area three times the spatial extent of France.
The UN-led Clean Seas Campaign has brought together more than 50 countries worldwide to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans. Guatemala, a recent member of the project, installs artisanal nets across rivers to prevent waste from getting washed off to the ocean. On another front, The Ocean Cleanup launched in September its first expedition to extract plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and are currently tuning the system to manage to retain the plastic they catch. The question naturally follows: what do we do with all that plastic?
Creativity can go a long way in tackling the problem of accumulated waste. Dutch-based KWS construct lightweight, easy-to-install, prefabricated road modules out of recycled plastic. A 30m-long bicycle patch has been installed in Zwolle, and more roads are planned in the rest of the Netherlands. Colombia-based Conceptos plasticos and US start-up ByFusion use plastic waste to construct durable building blocks.
Some of approaches are based on community-centred, bottom-up initiatives. Net-works, based in the Philippines and Cameroon, collect discarded fishing nets. These are first recycled into nylon yarn and then sold to produce high design carpet tiles. Finally, Eco-Bricks
is an initiative to construct building blocks by packing used plastics into a plastic bottles. They have developed an open construction methodology that allows anyone to make their own bricks using low tech, zero cost regenerative technology.
More of a movement than just a tech solution, eco-bricks groups are spreading around the world, and different techniques of eco-bricking are available to address different sorts of plastic waste and different building needs. From garden furniture to affordable housing, Eco-bricks enable creativity and social participation, and are a solution-oriented way of taking responsibility of ones’ own waste.