Plastics are strong, durable waterproof, lightweight, easy to mold and recyclable- all key properties for construction materials. Examples of successful industrial recycling include PET, OR Polyethylene terephthalate, which is used to make soft drinks bottles, and polystyrene for making interlocking building blocks
Any plastic waste can be shredded and used as filler material for asphalt, or be pyrolysed – decomposed through heating –to produce fuel.
The Japanese company Blest Corporation already sells, a portable machine to convert domestic plastic waste into fuel in a simple, affordable way. Working with the ‘unrecyclable’ waste and developing plastics alternatives to natural materials may reduce demand on the world’s resources. Plastic items we think of as rubbish can have a second life in construction due to the same properties that make them so hard to dispose. There is a common misconception that some plastic is ‘unrecyclable ‘, but given the right treatment it need not to go to the landfill. Roto-molding process is a plastic molding technology that is ideal for making large hollow articles for interior designs.
The ecological footprint of a polymeric materials is smaller than that of natural materials, which have a sizeable demand on arable land, clean water, fertilizers and regeneration time.
Working with the ‘unrecyclable’ waste and developing plastics alternatives to natural materials may reduce the demand for available resources of the planet and leave a cleaner and more sustainable planet for the next generation.
Building with plastic waste requires fewer resources than natural products, and would otherwise go to landfill or into the oceans. Such materials made from recycled plastics are not yet widely used in the construction industry. Prototypes have mainly been used for demonstrative installations. It will take political will and widespread environmental awareness to encourage more investment into the potential in plastic recycling.
A social entrepreneurship startup company in Kenya, Chemolex Limited has been able to produce construction materials from plastics waste collected from waterways such as rivers and streams which are considerably cheaper than the existing conventional construction materials. The picture [inset] shows a lady show casing roofing tile made from plastic waste.
Plastics are certainly an enormous problem, but they don’t necessarily have to be. The main issue is with the existing liner economic model: goods are produced, consumed, and then disposed off. This model assumes endless economic growth and doesn’t consider the planet’s exhaustible resources.