“They’ll last for 300 years,” he says, “and can support a 36-ton green roof without difficulty.”
A company in Honduras has redefined construction, providing not only innovative designs, but also solutions to the serious environmental impact of trash and plastic bottles. ECO-TEC Soluciones Ambientales (ECO-TEC Environmental Solutions), since 2001 has been building homes, murals, and water reserve tanks out of recycled materials – in particular, out of dirt-filled plastic soda bottles. “We have created a new brick, it is eco-friendly and more durable than the traditional one,” says Andreas Froese, founder of ECO-TEC. “They’ll last for 300 years,” he says, “and can support a 36-ton green roof without difficulty.”
Froese says he was first inspired to start this project while traveling to Central America to volunteer at an orphanage and a center for disabled children. While he was there, he experienced the social and environmental problems these children were faced with first-hand, and was motivated to implement various ecological systems at their center; including composting and dry toilets.
When Froese moved on to work at the first Eco-Park in Honduras, he noticed the park’s visitors generated thousands of bottles per week. Realizing the environmental impact all of these trashed bottles presented, he embarked on a journey to figure out how he could utilize the discarded bottles as bricks in construction, and in turn share and spread the technique among the people in Central America so that they could use it to help themselves. The idea and the development of the technique came to him in 2001, and as he considers it, “it was a gift from God, and that is why I did not patent it.”
PET Bottle + Dirt & Rubble = BRICK
The Eco-Park in those days became a center for teaching clean technologies and bio-construction. In 2001, he built the worlds first plastic bottle house, using 8,000 PET bottles and soil as a blend material. This home also had a green or living roof built with grass. Living roofs serve several purposes for a building, including absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife, and helping to lower urban air temperatures and combat the heat island effect. We think they also look pretty cool, and have a very nice aesthetic appeal!
In a world where in a year we produce more than 200 billion PET bottles, only recycle 5%, and see the rest flow into our rivers and oceans – this amazing technique is an absolute necessity.
Beyond the clear environmental benefits of this form of recycling, this technique serves to help poorer communities in developing nations build their homes economically. In the last 12 years ECO-TEC has completed more than 50 projects in Honduras, Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, India, and Uganda, all the while creating a positive impact on the communities in which they do the work.
Community Development & Education
ECO-TEC focuses on bio-construction, eco-design, composting and vermiculture. Along with providing these services, they have gone to great lengths to educate the local communities through social programs that foster environmental conscience and the value of reusing and recycling. Froese says that through these social programs and workshops “ECO-TEC becomes sustainable, allowing the techniques to diffuse onto other continents.”
Froese’s methodology is to provide hands on training to people in the local communities as they build, so that at the end of their learning experience they are left with a real building. The entire community is involved from start to finish, and each project hinges on Environmental Education as a result of the process. Through this method, ECO-TEC shifts the negative views on trash and leaves the community with the tools to carry out other projects on their own. His favorite part, Froese says, “is finding solutions, seeing people grow, and improving their lives and those of their families.”
ECO-TEC has received many awards, including being recognized by the UN in their publication “60 Experiences on the Path to Development,” as one of the most innovative businesses for their eco-building projects, and their training of municipalities on recycling and waste management.
Froese is currently working in Medellin, Colombia building a tank from PET bottles filled with post-consumer packaging and e-recycles. “No one has ever done that before,” he says, “so we will be the first.” ECO-TEC also has many upcoming projects expanding to other regions of the world, including Namibia and Nigeria in Africa. Froese is also also working this year to build the first PET bottle construction in his home country of Germany.
Keep on truckin’ sir, this is an amazing project, and the world thanks you.