How do you solve the problem of affordable housing and the build up of non-biodegradable plastic bottles all in one go?

A revolutionary building idea from Nigeria involves the development of a new type of brick to make homes. Made from plastic bottles, the “bottle brick” is being used in eco-friendly houses. Bottle bricks are very simple to make and combine a discarded plastic bottle and sand, shored up with mud. Bottle houses cost about a third of the cost of traditional houses. Each house uses 7,800 bottles to make three rooms: a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom. The next project for the Nigerian bottle house builders is schools.

Did you know? Much of Nigeria is desert. There is no shortage of sand to make bottle bricks.

Plastic is a non-biodegradable product, taking hundreds of years to break down in the environment. In most major cities, recycling depots take in bottles to be processed into new plastic products. However, many people choose to throw away their used plastics rather than be inconvenienced with recycling. According to the Container Recycling Institute, only about 20 percent of all plastic containers were recycled in the U.S. in 2009.

In Nigeria, there are few places to recycle plastic bottles and thus most bottles are left either in landfills or in rivers and lakes. Since plastic can take hundreds of years to break down, these bottles are the perfect building material. They will not fall apart due to weathering like a conventional brick might. Not to mention, there won't likely be a shortage of plastic bottles in the near future.

Did you know? Plastic does not decompose like flesh does, it simply breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic.

The bottle houses are extremely strong and sturdy. Each bottle brick is estimated to be 20 times stronger than a traditional brick! They are so strong that planning is in the works for bottle brick projects that will reach up to three storeys – and that’s almost 30 feet.

The bricks are also good insulators, keeping the home cool on hot summer days and warm on cool nights. This is all pretty incredible considering that these bottles were once destined for the landfill.

Learn more!

Nigeria recycles plastic bottles, into housing!

Plastic bottles pile up as mountains of waste

Bottle Brick--Changing the world one bottle at a time


Anyaka, Ugochi. 2011. Nigeria recycles plastic bottles, into housing! Green Nigeria. Disson, Sian. 2011. New limits of sustainable design realised in Nigeria’s plastic bottle house by DARE. Architecture Olukoya, Sam. 2011. Nigeria’s plastic bottle house. BBC.

Article first published December 7, 2011

Mike MacPherson

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