Plastic Bottle Village demonstrates another approach to repurposing single-use bottles.
In a world where billions of
disposable recyclable plastic bottles are used each year, finding innovative ways to reuse them in the area where they are collected is a noble challenge. Earlier this year, I wrote about a company using a relatively low-tech method of turning plastic waste into solid panels to build homes out of in Mexico, which is one way to approach the issue, but there's another way to use plastic bottles to build with, which a project in Panama hopes to use to construct an eco-village.
The Plastic Bottle Village, located on Isla Colón in Panama's Bocas del Toro province, is a planned 83-acre eco-community that will eventually include some 120 homes, all of which will be built with used plastic bottles as the main insulation, which not only repurposes the bottles, but which also keeps the interiors of the buildings about 17°C cooler than the outside, without requiring any other energy inputs.
The design of the homes don't seem that different from a conventional house, as long as you don't know what's in the walls, which may add to their appeal, as not everyone wants to live in a home that looks radically different from their neighbors. What sets the Plastic Bottle Village homes apart from those built using traditional construction is the way that the walls are constructed, because the design uses frames made from rebar and steel mesh that are filled with used plastic bottles and then, after the various electrical and plumbing lines are inserted, covered with concrete both inside and out.
According to the project's website, more than 10,000 plastic bottles were used in the first building, which was constructed in the fall of 2015, and the next "model home" (a rather castle-like building which is currently under construction) will use quite a few more. The site goes on to explain that the average human, consuming 15 or more plastic bottles per month, will go through some 14,000+ bottles in their lifetime, but by building a two-story plastic bottle house, that same amount of bottles could be removed from the environment and put into service as insulation, effectively neutralizing that plastic footprint. Obviously, not using those tens of thousands of plastic bottles in the first place would be a much better choice, but considering how pervasive these bottles are, using some of them in this way might be a decent solution, especially in areas without adequate facilities or with high removal costs and additional recycling challenges.
The bottles for the first of the homes in the project came from a local recycling program set up several years ago by Robert Bezeau, the creator and owner of Plastic Bottle Village, which was then discontinued after a short period of time (but which is said to be resuming this year). The project has three planned development phases, during which it is hoped that some 120 homes will be built, along with an eco-lodge, community gardens, mini-parks, and more, with the end result of creating not just a community, but also an education and research center working toward solutions to the massive global plastic pollution problem.
"At the Plastic Bottle Village, we inspire to bring together a collective of minds and bodies, to work together to create awareness, and to take part in educating the world, to the positive effects of re-using eco building with recycled materials."