Plastic bottles, lids and bags are being converted into walls and roofs in ecologically friendly houses in accord with a project developed in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, a project seeking to contribute to sustainability and reduce the amount of waste that goes into the oceans.
The plastic waste that finds its way – or is dumped – into the seas and rivers can be used more productively to create economical homes, which are resistant to earthquakes, have thermic properties and do not degrade or crack like conventional house walls do.
This kind of house is made possible by using processed plastic to make so-called “plastic wood,” a material composed of several polymers that was developed by engineer Ramon Espinosa as a solution to the pollution caused by the plastic waste generated both by individual homeowners and by industry.
“It’s a proposed solution for reversing the situation we’re currently experiencing in various parts of the world. It’s a healthy proposal, sustainable, ecological and – above all – it’s directed at any social environment,” the creator of the concept and director of the Ecoplastico Ambiental company told us last Tuesday.
Ever since he was a Master’s student in renewable energy a little over a decade ago, Espinosa has wanted to create a construction material that would be resistant, abundant and would not affect the environment.
Plastic was a good option since, far from a decline in its consumption on the global level, its use is increasing.
The result of years of testing with different polymers is his “plastic wood,” which can be formed into highly resistant sheets from the plastics people use every day in their homes: milk bottles and bags, as well as the frameworks of electronic devices and post-industrial materials.
All these items can be treated and processed in special machines and transformed into multicolor sheets that are light but able to support tons of weight or can be modified in other ways to fit any home construction need, depending on what an individual desires and can afford.
He added that although “plastic wood” is made of plastics the material does not heat up quickly, and thus the walls of a plastic wood home help maintain a comfortable temperature inside, which avoids the excessive use of fans or air conditioning, thus saving on electricity costs and reducing the production of greenhouse gases.
A house made of this materials is 30 percent more economical than conventionally made homes and requires only minimal maintenance, with a small house for two or three people taking just four weeks to build, since no internal structure is required, just a concrete foundation or base.
Espinosa displayed a house in which virtually every item was made entirely of plastic wood, although that fact was evident only from the texture and natural colors in the sheets forming the walls and ceilings.
Of course, installing basic services such as plumbing, electric wiring and the like is done as in a conventional house, and there is no problem with ensuring that such services work properly. Solar panels can even be installed on the roof.
Espinosa and his team have also developed other ways to use plastic wood, such as using it to make urban furniture like park benches, tables and posts for fences.
It can also be used for truck chassis, containers and water tanks, school classrooms and many other things.
Because many plastics take a long time to break down in the natural environment, homes made of plastic wood will last for at least 150 years, he said.