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Is there any way of using plastics in making bricks?


A question from Jane Hutton:

The beaches in Ghana are unfortunately full of plastics. Is there any way of using those plastics in making materials or bricks, which would give an incentive to collect up the rubbish?

3 Answers


Dear Jane,

there are several ways of using plastic to make bricks, is all depends from what kind of waste you have available.

The paving tiles Mary Allen refers to are made of plastic bags and sand, which are first heated up and mixed together, then placed into molds. They are very good for paving and if mixed with the right proportions they have good mechanical properties. The technology was first tested in Bamako, Mali, by CETAMB, from Brescia University. It has since then replicated in several West African countries. CETAMB website has all the specifications of the RESEDA project, but I'm afraid they are in Italian.

If plastic bottles are not being recycled (check out whether there is a waste broker who collects them first), they can become a very handy way of building walls: they can be filled with soil (which must be compacted to ensure structural integrity), then mud or concrete are used to fix them together and the bottle jeads are anchored with a wire. With this system you can build walls, cisterns, etc... Buildings made out of this technique are allegedly earthquake resistant and even bullet proof, although I haven't seen any testing in this regard so this claims must be taken with a grain of salt.

Alternatively, if they don't have to sustain the weight of the roof, the bottles can be left empty and tied together with iron wire and wood frames. Such modules are then used as division walls which can be plastered (for privacy) or not (for instance for green houses).

Here's a link with a short graphic review of how PET bottles can be used in construction

And here are two guides on how to use the technology

Finally, if polystyrene cups and plates are an issue (such as it was and still is in Haiti), these can be compacted and baled together with some simple machine (that can be locally built) to make Ubuntu Blox. This technology was developed by Haiti Communitiere in collaboration with DWR and provide very good mechanical properties in terms of compression, insulation and resistance to earthquakes (this has been tested). The only problem is with fire. Here's an overview of the process, and of the machinery required

I would like to point out these blocks should be used for building simple, one story houses. With the Compressed earth bottles it may be possible to go up one more floor, but it is required to use arches to create a structurally sound building, so unless there are very good masons used in doing sustaining arches, I would not recommend it.

Finally, it may be the case that, depending on your location in Ghana, the nearest big city has someone who's collecting some of the plastics for recycling, and thus is just a matter of collection and ... (plus)

Mary Allen
Practical Action

Dear Jane Short answer is - yes. I have seen samples of paving bricks made here in Senegal out of recycled plastic but dont have any technical information. If you speak French you could contact Monsieur Gueye email : apraoartisans (at)

There has also been some work in Niger and Mali (RESEDA project in Niger)

Good luck!


An alternative approach was used on the island of Príncipe:

It requires the installation of drinking water fountains and the distribution of reusable water bottles that people value on a continued basis.