By Gram Plastic Free Grocer
Local waste management organisation Waste-ED offers, among many other services, a place for conscious South Africans to donate their ecobricks. Gram Plastic Free Grocer is one of their many drop-off points across the greater Cape Town area.
What is an ecobrick?
An ecobrick is a plastic bottle stuffed tightly with clean and dry non-recyclable materials. These bottle bricks have been used around the world for over 30 years as building bricks and a powerful tool to connect people with their waste.
The ecobrick is a reaction to a worldwide pollution problem and should only be used as a temporary solution to deal with non-recyclables in a community
Different communities use different sizes or types of bottles depending on the bottle availability and the demand of the project. If you would like to start making ecobricks on your zero waste journey, ask the project you plan on donating to before starting.
Waste-ED accepts and uses all shapes and sizes. Your end product should be a hard, well-stuffed, clean and dry bottle brick.
There is an estimated weight of 500g for a 2l bottle but it varies greatly on the materials you stuffed into your bottle and therefore it is still up for debate – as long as it is as hard as possible, it is a good ecobrick!
By understanding more about the materials we come into contact with and where they end up, we empower ourselves and our community.
What is non-recycleble?
Non-recyclables vary from recycler to recycler, and province to province as South Africa relies on the private sector to provide recycling services and, recently, food waste services.
The ecobrick is a useful tool to identify non-recyclables in your area and can be used worldwide to track items heading to landfills, oceans or rivers and then steps can be put into place to improve problematic products or systems.
Typically glass, metal, paper, and cardboard are easily recyclable in most areas of South Africa. Plastics vary in quality and melting points and therefore some are easier or more valuable to recycle. Generally, plastics with codes 1, 2 and 4 are commonly recycled and plastics with codes 3, 5 and 6 not as common.
Mixed layer products and small items (even if they are made from recyclable plastics) are hard to recycle and not as commonly recycled throughout the country, eg. chip packets, stickers, stationary, synthetic fabrics, etc.
Dirty items, whether recyclable or not, will be land-filled unless the facility has a washing process, so it is best to wash all used or dirty materials with leftover dish-washing water and then place them in your ecobrick or recycling bin once dry.
Ecobrick & Earth Build\
Sustainability for ecobricks in structures is of utmost importance to Waste-ED. They are in the process of testing and researching the best building methods for ecobricks with several local partners and an international ecobrick alliance. Clay is one of the world’s oldest building materials. It is robust, stable and, as a result, especially durable. With a lifespan of more than 100 years, clay structures are weather-resistant, energy-efficient and fire-resistant. When an ecobrick is embedded in clay, the bottle acts as a filler and creates insulation while the clay protects the bottle. If the structure is ever taken down, the clay can go back to the soil and the ecobricks can be reused (or the materials can be taken out to be recycled if those facilities are finally available). According to Waste-ED, the production of cement is the third largest source of CO2 emissions on the planet. Many other conventional building methods are also very wasteful. That is why Waste-ED is looking beyond this to find better building solutions alongside the exploration of better material use and sustainable systems in the case of the non-recyclables and the ecobrick. Waste-ED uses the ecobrick to share education on better waste management systems but also to upskill communities on self-building with natural, durable and locally sourced materials too.
Waste-ED's Back-Your-Brick Programmes Waste-ED runs back-your-brick programmes to ensure every ecobrick is used in their local building projects. Offset your landfill today by backing your home ecobricks at their drop-off facilities or become a back-a-brick partner as a business, school or community.
Household Ecobrickers You can back your household ecobricks at one of their drop-off points around Cape Town. These dop-offr points serve the public who do not have a business, school or community programme to contribute to and ONLY ACCEPT A FEW PER PERSON PER MONTH so as to not overwhelm the small shops with bulk bricks Bulk Ecobricks Businesses, schools or community groups making ecobricks join in on Waste-ED's back-your-brick programmes where your bricks contribute directly to your chosen builds. Bulk Ecobrick contributors can CONTACT WASTE-ED DIRECTLY BEFORE STARTING COLLECTIONS to be part of Waste-ED's bigger builds or to learn how to use the bricks for your own applications.