Building houses out of plastic waste

Building houses out of plastic waste


A portable machine turns used plastic into bricks

The plastic waste and ocean pollution awareness has been rising, especially after the forecast that by 2050 plastic could outnumber fish in our oceans came out. Several years ago, New Zealand-based inventor and engineer Peter Lewis wanted to turn these large quantities of plastic waste into something useful, so he invented a portable machine that can transform it into construction material (bricks). This was not put into use at the time due to a variety of reasons, but Gregor Gomory and his start-up ByFusion later revived the original concept. The Byfusion process converts all types of used plastic waste (of all shapes and forms) into a machine-compressed building material called RePlast, having the dimensions of a typical concrete masonry unit. Replast is currently used in a modular way in low-income housing, but it could also be used in a wide variety of development, construction and infrastructure projects including highway sound barriers, environmental retaining walls, thermal insulation for industrial and residential construction, and crash barriers. The machinery, which runs on gas or electricity, is housed in used shipping containers and can easily be transported to areas where it is needed. Recently, ByFusion partnered up with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, a non-profit alliance handling ocean waste, in a joint effort to remove plastic pollution from Hawaii’s waters.

Characteristics of RePlast Block

The good news is that Replast blocks have excellent thermal and acoustic performance. Moreover, because they do not require a binding agent, such as glue or adhesive, their carbon footprint is negligible compared to concrete (95% lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GhG) during production). That means they can contribute to a green building certification (ex. LEED) for construction and communities. Also, their manufacturing process is flexible, as the machine can produce bricks of different size, shape and color. A similar process is also followed in Colombia, where Oscar Mendez founded Conceptos Plasticos (Concept Plastics), a company that builds houses for the homeless people using recycled plastics. They process and mold used plastics and rubbers into bricks, which are then assembled into high-quality low-cost houses. It takes five days for four people to assemble a 40 m2 (430 ft2) house and up to now, they have built 1500 m2(16145 ft2) of houses and are planning to build more.