Ecobricks, removing plastic from our biosphere and turning rubbish into building blocks, yes you heard that correctly – What are they though?

Our dirty little secret – zero wasters create waste. What we always strive to work towards is to create less, as it’s impossible to be fully zero waste.

4 months worth of ecobricks from two sisters in Manchester trying to say no to plastic. Credit: Lifebeforeplastik

At Society Zero, we get asked a lot about ecobricks.  If this is something you have come across you will understand just how inspiring it is. People across the world are literally turning rubbish, (that would otherwise be put in landfill or incinerated) into building blocks to build things.

Ecobricks that have been donated to New Forest Aquaponics, Hampshire. Each has been logged on the GoBrik app and have a unique serial number.

Over the past 2 weeks there has been a phenomenal surge in the number of people discussing the plastic problem.  The Ecobricks UK Facebook group alone has quadrupled to nearly 20,000 members in the last week. This influx of interest even crashed their website!  How’s that for people power? Just a few weeks on since Drowning In Plastic aired on the BBC and shocked the nation.

A young boy collects plastic bottles along the polluted Citarum river, Indonesia.

But, what do we actually do with them?  How can we turn our waste into something that benefits society? We explain how to create one, what tools you’ll need and what you can do with your ecobrick once it is made.

Why ecobrick?

In the UK we are no longer able to export our waste anymore, landfills are closing down across the nation, therefore now is the time to act.  It’s time to take responsibility until zero waste shopping is accessible to everyone, countrywide.  Plastic packaging as we currently know it, will not be changed by governments anytime soon.  However, if we can’t ‘recycle’ it, what can we do it with it?

zero waste shop glasgow Ecobrick society zero zero waste shop Glasgow social enterprise
Hierarchy of living zero waste – the five ‘R’s’

We speak about it a lot, however the hierarchy of waste is there to help you to live more zero waste. We always find ourselves trying to reduce first of course, but this isn’t always available.  While we’d all like to be able to cut out our waste all together, even the big named zero wasters, create waste. So instead of storing it in a mason jar, why don’t we forgive and not give ourselves a hard time for not being able to go with the plastic free option and use the single use plastic as a force for good? This is where ecobricks come in.

What are ecobricks?

Ecobrick society zero zero waste shop Glasgow social enterprise
My ecobrick, a work in progress. Taken from my neighbour’s recycling bin and as you can still see some gaps at the bottom that need compacting.

An ecobrick is a reusable building block created by packing clean and dry into a plastic bottle to a set density.

What do I need to make an ecobrick?

  • A clean dry plastic bottle.  (one single structure – no handles like on plastic milk bottles as these are hard to stuff)
  • Clean, dry, non-biodegradable plastics. Click here for a comprehensive list of suitable items
  • A pair of scissors
  • A ‘pokey stick’, best if it is rounded so it doesn’t pierce the bottle, a wooden spoon is ideal and should be longer than your bottle
Ecobrick society zero zero waste shop Glasgow social enterprise
Tools for ecobricking. Note: using a napkin attached by the lid to dry out the bottle – don’t lose the lid.

The best thing about ecobricks? Anyone and everyone can take part!   In addition, there are wonderful benefits to the community, our environment and towards the fight against the plastic crisis.

Ecobrick society zero zero waste shop Glasgow social enterprise
The base of your ecobrick should ideally be all one colour, to enhance the aesthetics of your project.

Here are our top 4 tips when it comes to ecobricking.

Tip #1 It is best to start with a small bottle.

Tip #2 Stuff a softer plastic in first so that you fill all the gaps.

Tip #3 Don’t forget to log your ecobrick on the GOBRIK app.

Tip #4 Ensure your ecobrick reaches it’s target weight (grams).  Use this simple calculation:

Ecobrick society zero zero waste shop Glasgow social enterprise
So for a 2litre bottle the ideal ecobrick weight is calculated 0.33 x 2000 =660g

What can we make with ecobricks?

There are so many great projects that you can start in your own garden or local community.  All you need is a collection of strong, sturdy ecobricks first.  How about a planter to grow vegetables in your garden or local park?  Perhaps you might be thinking further afield. What about setting up a community garden, working with your local scout or girl guide group?  If your local park benches look a bit tatty- you could build some new ones out of ecobricks.  The possibilities are endless.  Here are some examples we’ve found from across the world.

Herb garden and vegetable planters

A school in South Africa have built their own vegetable patch on a raised planter. Credit: Iandommisse

Benches in parks and schools

Non-Structural Use of ecobricks, Compassion Corner Earthbench, Davis, CA

Ponds or larger raised beds

A pond which you can see is being built here with the traditional wattle and daub technique in South East Asia.

How can you get involved?

Individuals up and down the country are ecobricking.  Consequently, communities are coming together to host ecobrick workshops, start local projects in schools, the scouts and girl guides, nurseries – everyone it seems is getting in on this.  For example, one exciting venture that you can send your ecobricks to is the New Forest Aquaponics in Hamphire.  Aquaponics is a symbiotic system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish supplies the nutrients for plants to grow.  Now that is what we call a circular economy!

Keep your eyes peeled for more in our ecobrick series.  Next week we interview Global Ecobrick Alliance certified trainer Lucie Mann from New Forest Aquaponics.

Why not start on your ecobrick today?

TURNING SINGLE USE PLASTIC INTO SOMETHING FANTASTIC

Ecobrick society zero zero waste shop Glasgow social enterprise
Outtakes from shooting. I think my face says it all…

For more information and inspiration about why it is important to reduce your plastic consumption in the first place, visit our blog -our best sustainability documentaries.

Useful links:

Global Ecobrick Alliance website

Ecobricks UK Facebook page

Ecobrick Exchange

Have you been making ecobricks? Show us your ecobricks? Use the hashtag #societyzero

Zero Waste shop in Glasgow

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