Usually, this new form takes shape when the bags are recycled and turned into other products. But in India this process is becoming something that is transforming the lives of the poor and vulnerable.
We usually only hear the negative things surrounding plastic bags, but one Danish student is making plastic bags extra useful in ways that you might not have imagined possible before. India has a massive litter problem and with this problem comes the seemingly never ending amount of plastic bags that are disposed of wherever they are thrown. But rather than let these bags rot and decay, a chance stay in India has led Lise Vestergaard to come up with the idea of turning the plastic bags into strong bricks that can be used for building.
It all started with a competition called the Green Challenge which is hosted at the university at which she used to be a student. This competition gave her the platform on which to present her idea, an idea that proved to be very useful and popular. She visited India as part of her studies and during this time she was assigned to a project that worked to develop a refuse collection system in one of the country’s poorest cities.
The recycling of plastic bags, even the recycling of plastic bags in Pretoria, leaves behind a soft plastic product that is difficult to get rid of. And this is where she saw her opportunity. When in India Lise saw that the homes made from clay bricks would simply wash away during the monsoon season, leaving people homeless and destitute. Her thoughts then turned to the plastic waste and whether it could be used to create a material that could be used to build sturdier homes that would survive the flood waters.
The moment she returned to Denmark her mind was set on creating these bricks and she set about creating a number of versions, some of which were created using an oven you would usually find in the home. The results were remarkable. It was found that these bricks were able to withstand up to 6 tonnes of pressure. Along with the plastic bags which have been used in the bricks there are also bags from potato chips, reducing two types of problematic litter at once.
Now that the bricks have a model to be followed she is headed back to India to implement the project. The only way in which these bricks can be made is by the plastic being melted down. This is the only problem as the electricity supply in this part of India is not very stable, and many times it is completely non-existent. The solution has been found in solar energy.
Using plastic bags in Pretoria to make bricks
Now that the conceptual ground work has been laid down, the idea can be used in countries around the world. Eco-bricks are not an unreachable idea and as going green is becoming a very important part of modern living, recycling plastic bags to make bricks is a great way to keep the focus on sustainable living.
Imagine the possibilities in South Africa.
For years, our government has tried to come up with a solution to the plastic bag problem and what better way than to turn the plastic bags into a cheap but reliable building material. Usually plastic bags in Pretoria are forgotten in a landfill once they have been disposed of. This is not only a huge waste in the plastic bag industry but it is also a massive waste of space. If we could recycle the bags rather than dump them, we would see that there is more life to plastic bags in Pretoria than we think. And the best place in which to start this process is by finding ways to recycle the bags to create not only more plastic bags but to also create other items.
As South Africans we see poverty almost everywhere we go and even if it is not something that you see on a daily basis it is definitely something that you are going to read about or see in the news. With research showing that up to 340 eco-bricks made from recycled plastic bags can be made in around 24 hours, homes will quickly be built in the place of unstable, dangerous shacks. Townships can be transformed into miniature cities, with each shack owner becoming a home owner. The bricks made this way take on a rainbow of colours as they are a mixture of all of the different coloured plastic bags. This means that there will be less reason to have paint to decorate the homes and make them look neat.
Eco-bricks can also be made using plastic bottles and other plastic products. And better than anything else, the creation of these bricks can be what drives people to organise clean-up projects that will transform their cities from polluted areas to environmentally friendly havens. The creation of eco-bricks is going to encourage people to recycle rather than throw away. At the end of such a nationwide project we will have a more environmentally conscious population and less waste to worry about getting rid of. We will also have a built up nation with a new group of proud homeowners.
Once we start thinking along these innovative lines and come up with new uses for plastic bags in Pretoria, we will find new ways in which to build homes and give people the opportunity to build new lives for themselves.
So before you throw that plastic bag in your dustbin, think about the bag as more than the carrier of your bread and milk, think of it as the building bricks of a new home for someone who has never had a home of their own. Plastic bags in Pretoria have untapped potential waiting to be used.
Article by Newspaper Advertising