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Recycled plastic bricks: 3 ideas to keep an eye on

(Sustainabilityenvironment.com) – The new road of circular construction? Use recycled plastic bricks. These are innovative elements that can bring benefits to the environment and the climate by reducing one of the most pervasive modern waste and at the same time generate significantly less emissions than traditional bricks. For some time now, scientists and companies have been working on the idea with different approaches but with the same objective: to create an eco-friendly, functional and economical product.

And today when it comes to recycled plastic bricks you can already find a number of interesting projects regardless of the degree of development. We have gathered and summarized the latest experiences in the sector, between initiatives already started and research still in its infancy.

The “Lego” bricks that do good to people and the planet

Among the most advanced projects is that of the British non-profit Recycle Rebuild. The company worked with the Dutch company Precious Plastics in the production of bricks made from 100% recycled plastic. To produce one you need 1.5 kg of plastic waste.
The technology uses Precious Plastic’s open source recycling machines to allow communities around the world to replicate the initiative. Each brick is characterized by a design that allows you to hook others, just like that of the iconic Lego bricks. Internal cavities reduce thermal bridges by improving insulation properties compared to standard masonry construction.

Recycled plastic and sand: Nzambi Matee bricks

Slightly more complex is the recipe put to tip by engineer Nzambi Matee, in Kenya. The scientist, now head of the startup Gjenge Makers, has invented a system to churn out sustainable building materials at low cost. The process mixes plastic and sand at very high temperatures, and then compresses them into bricks. The plant is able to process a large amount of waste, even those traditionally rejected by traditional recycling, producing about 1,500 bricks per day. And selling them for about $7.70 a square foot.

The innovation earned Matee the title of Young Champions of the Earth in 2020.

Recycled plastic bricks by Selina Heiniger

It is still at the beginning instead of the Master project by Selina Heiniger, civil engineer in Lausanne, who is developing a new construction material consisting of plastic waste, cement and terracotta. The scholar’s project combines her academic interests with the desire to contribute to the protection of the environment, developing construction methods that use fewer raw materials and, at the same time, reducing pollution due to plastic waste.

Heiniger bricks are made from recycled plastic, in particular polypropylene, polyvinyl and high density polyethylene, mixed with terracotta made from crushed bricks and recycled cement. They are developed in such a way as to fix automatically, without the need for the use of mortar. The invention is still in the testing phase and will require further measures, but the premises are good and the tests encouraging.

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