Using shredded plastic to make ecobricks

Hello from South Africa!

Has anyone out used the plastic shredded material to make ecobricks?  Particularly 2 litre plastic bottles (Coca Cola, etc…)

If you have, what were the results like?Were they easy to stuff?Where they hard / solid enough to use in building?What were the weights of the ecobricks?Anything else you found that was interesting?Many thanks!


@davehakkens have you ever tried to make an Ecobrick this way?

@wesrent:  I’m hoping the mud encasing will kind of, sort of, contain the fire for a while at least?  Maybe I should test it on a mini-scale rather than speculating 🙂
Spoke to an architect yesterday and he tells me laws and municipal & political red tape will be quite something to deal with  if I’m planning to sell the bricks even at cost price.  So, a quick search this morning showed that there’s a Shack Dwellers Association.  Will contact them to see what’s happening there re laws etc.

@timhardex:  thank you!  I’ve completely forgotten about that company you’ve linked.  I actually know the owner who’s out of town at the moment but will chat to him.  Re numbers:  yes please!  Anything will help right now.

@wesrent as @frogfall mentioned, if you want to make “bottle bricks” the way to go is using sand. Filling the bottles with shredded plastic is not efficient because the plastic inside of the bottle will compress and eventually your houses will fall appart. If you insist on using only plastic for your bricks, then find another method such as using a lego moulds like this one, they will even be much better looking and comfortable:

@frogfall – yes the plastic filled ecobricks is the same principle as the sand, however now you are killing two birds, “hiding” the plastic away within the structure itself – using the cob or mud to encase the bricks would make them safe from the UV rays… I am not 100% sure on the fire resistance of these encased plastic bottles though.

– yes, there are also a lot of shack fires here in South Africa, especially during the winter months… I am sure that a fire with a normal shack will be just as bad as a fire with a house made out of ecobricks?  I am sure that the people will get away from the fire regardless of the toxicity levels of the smoke?  I wonder if the mud encasing the ecobricks would have any fire resistant qualities??

@conny, if the brick machinery is an option:this can be build with hydraulic cylinders, you can get them in africa but not sure at which price. you will need at least 4 cylinders for one brick press. those cylinders need to be in sync which isn’t easy. the best videos about how to make one are here : and here the station: alternatively you can use a second hand hydraulic press, the ‘make it extreme’ guys on youtube also have a video for this. If you can imagine to make them yourself, we can sponsor some parts for this (smaller parts: connectors, adapters). Apart from the cylinders, you will need solid metal bases/frameworks and motors. You could use old scrap machinery for that as well. I have no idea about prices & machine building down there but I do know that electricity might be a show breaker. I am checking general supplies and prices for Namibia and surroundings this days 🙂 Public water facilities however are using quite a lot of hydraulic stuff, eventually they help you to source it.


I would have thought that a better way to use bottles for building would be to fill them with rammed sand.  It is a tried and tested technique. See:

– The house that Tateh built … out of sand-filled plastic bottles
– Instructables – How to Construct Houses With Plastic Bottles !!

The outer render/plaster protects the PET from UV radiation, and the rammed sand will not compress or creep like the shredded plastic waste.

@conny, if you need help with number crunching/machine design for the brick ‘factory’ let me know, it could be done with scrap yard things but requires 2-3 man months in work to get a machine which produces at least 5 bricks simultaneously, at decent rate of 5 a minute.  not sure what brought you here but ‘precious plastic’ machines are rather designed for small objects…

there is one facility in Namibia. I’d ask them about possible deals, and then as next plan the construction of a brick machinery which is relative easy.

oh dear, truly bad conditions; hard to say anything. so i see 2 big challenges to solve, get you a serious shredder or a facility to sort and split plastics, and another facility to make the bricks (via heat & pressure). doing it with those bottles seems unrealistic because your earth seems unfitted, and water is precious.

wouldn’t it be easier to make deals with existing plastic collector/recycle spots ? doing all this from scratch looks unrealistic.  I could also imagine that this won’t be supported by any governments.

so let’s say the fire resistance can be solved, what steps are possible there ? talking with the gov. or industry ?

Here’s a pic of what a typical shack looks like.  Made out of corrugated iron, residents use candles at night, so risk of fire is always there.

@conny, could you upload some pictures, so we get an idea about those ‘shacks’ (context matters here) ? however, googling for ‘plastic waste housing’ or similar brought up some interesting articles, here one of them (project in bogota, claiming its fire resistant). there is another one here.

but yes, you have to be very careful, there are too many goofy ‘projects’ out there claiming ‘good for us’ and the usual bla bla, but looking at the facts there are most of the time just good intentions left and a huge load of resource/time/people waste, including this project here, ‘precious plastic’.

@wesrent – hi.  I live in Namibia, so I’m looking for the same solution as you.  My biggest challenge is shack fires when using ecobricks.  We have an average of 400 shack fires in Windhoek each month, so the toxicity with ecobricks would be hectic, no?  So in SA & Namibia & elsewhere, the eco house would ideally use electricity then to avoid this, but how do you enforce this?  We have a project going in Namibia where light is produced inside a 2 liter plastic bottle, which is inserted into the roof and is run by sunlight.  These lights only work for 5-6 hours though. Solar panels are obviously out of the question.
Just to emphasise, I’m not against ecobricks, just looking at it from all angles right now and would love to have more input.  To me, the lego bricks look like the best option so far.

needless to say, but you have to search for peer reviewed evidence that living inside a plastic house, 24/7 for years long doesnt harm you, especially with the temperatures and sun you have down there !!!

saying that this or that plastic is not poisonous is clearly not enough! there is a reason why people leave (and loose) their homes when they discover it’s build on waste. there is also reason why people switch from concrete to other build materials, same thing : concrete is not classified as harmful.

in doing this research right, you’re deciding over the death and life, dear friend.

googling for it showed nothing, after 10 minutes.

great! i would also look at solutions to keep the plastic together. having it in the bottle only isn’t enough though. eventually you can mix it with the good dust/earth just and natural made glue. it could also filter fume during hot times or direct sun exposure.

i believe this could work, only if you use the same material to stuff into the bottle (usually PET), if you keep the ‘brick’ all the same plastic, it would be easy to shred/remould it once you can see it deteriorating… then just make a new ‘brick’ to replace it.

i know it’s not the best option, but it will slow down the pollution getting into our waterways.

Even if it is remotely 450 years (very doubtful), do you think if one of this plastic bottles gets smashed, someone is going to collect all the particles and parts from the ground down there ? It’s even hard find people up here in europe who would do such thing….

considering that we polluted/killed most of the air & see life as well our soils on this planet, do you really think we should keep going with putting more time bombs into the ground, for own profit ? we do this since ages, i know. but let me tell you plastic plays a lion key part in this destruction. it has to be collected, treated and dissolved properly.

i don’t need to point out other solutions, I am here to point out the consequences, for you, your fellows, and anyone who has to cleanup your actions.

to over come the problems of this solution, you only need to tackle down the issues I’ve just mentioned:

– packaging: something else than bottles!
– content of the bottles: needs to be investigated and carefully
– health impacts: there is endless evidence about living on or in waste
– treatment: the plastic actually has to be heated and nearly melted into less dangerous sizes
– education & contract: people have to be well informed about all that, there have to be polices and contracts about how to use and dispose this ‘eco’ bricks.

I don’t think under the conditions in this areas have to suffer, this can be actually done in a professional and responsible matter but I can be wrong.

How Long Does It Take a Plastic Bottle to Biodegrade?

450 years – 1000 years is not an “easy” dissolve…

If you have any other solutions you’d like to share with me here (something that is affordable, relatively easy to do) please go ahead and do so… But if you’re going to shoot ideas down, come up with other solutions.

i understand, but yet as a matter of fact, there is no ‘eco’ here! That are ticking time bombs only, just consider how hard it is to get rid of it of those items again! This story is as said a blind (naive & irresponsible) and short sight solution, the problem remains. Please research & consider other solutions and support them, as long they have a finite and clear end for true.

Such bottle as said dissolves easily, the plastic particles in there too, this goes into the air and boom, it enters the ocean, even smaller and much more deadly for our habitat.