ecobricks

Ecobricks: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

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Recently while researching ways to reduce plastic use, I came across Ecobricks. At first glance, Ecobricks seem like a simple way to stop non-recyclable soft plastics from ending up in landfill. But what actually are Ecobricks? What do we do with them? And are they the solution we’ve all been waiting for or a distraction from what really matters? Find out all of this and more below.

What are Ecobricks?

Ecobricks are plastic bottles filled with the types of plastic waste we can’t recycle. They can be used to build all sorts of things, and there are designs all over the web. 

The Ecobrick movement came from a desire to allow people to take a personal responsibility for their plastic use. This is a project after my heart – people taking power and not relying on governments to sort the environment out for them. Because let’s face it, we haven’t been able to rely on them yet!

Talking about ecobricks on BBC X-ray
Image – BBC

The pros and cons of ecobricks

By turning your bottles and soft plastics into ecobricks, you are taking waste out of landfill, preventing the need for further resources by using what you already have to hand to make things, and stopping soft plastics from harming wildlife by stopping them from flying off into the local biome.

However, detractors of ecobricks say that ecobricks do nothing to stem the flow of plastic use. Some go even further and say that ecobricks actually incentivise continued use of plastic by making something useful, and by taking recyclable plastic bottles out of the resource stream.

So, are ecobricks the plastic scourge solution we’ve all been waiting for? This blogger says no, but they are a valuable tool that shouldn’t be overlooked. The fact is, there is no one-stop solution to the plastic crisis. We need to reduce use, and in the meantime the plastics that still come through our homes must be put to good use. You could even use ecobricking to track your plastic use!

What you can put in an ecobrick

Clean, dry, soft plastics that can’t be recycled elsewhere. Not sure if you can recycle it? Check with your council and Terracycle. You could also check with your local supermarket – some plastics can be recycled with your carrier bags.

What you can’t put in an ecobrick

Anything that has remnants of food waste on it – it will produce methane inside the bottle and the bottles will explode, ruining all of your hard work.

Anything that you can recycle elsewhere. If you can keep it in the circular economy, then please don’t make things more difficult for yourself by stuffing it into an ecobrick. Just don’t do it!

Anything that isn’t plastic. That’s not what ecobricks are for! Other materials will probably break down, leading to unstable or even exploding ecobricks.

Ecobricks-are-bottles-packed-with-non-biological-waste
Image – Ecobricks

How to make an ecobrick

Let’s make our first ecobrick!

You’ll need: a long stick (not pointed), a plastic bottle, lots of soft plastic film, scissors

  1. Step One: set up your ecobricking station

    I use the term “ecobricking station” loosely, but you need somewhere visible and easy to access that has everything you need to ecobrick to hand. I put my current ecobrick on top of my lidded kitchen bin with my stick in it with the scissors and bottle lid on top of the drawers next to it. Keeping everything together will help you stick to it.

  2. Step Two: stuff the ecobrick with plastics

    Use the stick to stuff clean, dry plastics into the ecobrick, packing down firmly as you go. Cut larger pieces of plastic down to more manageable pieces to prevent little pockets of air forming. Those little pockets of air will stop you from being able to fit as much plastic in.

  3. Step Three: weigh, seal and use

    Once you’ve packed the ecobrick to within an inch of its life, pop it on the scales. A perfect ecobrick will weigh 0.3g per ml that the bottle holds; so a 2l bottle will weigh 0.66kg. To seal, simply put the lid on tightly. Sign and date the ecobrick if you like!

recycling at green gathering 2017

How to make an ecobrick stool

The best way to make an ecobrick stool is with the hexagon Milstein Module. Silicone together 19 equally sized bottles in a hexagon shape. Decorate however you like!

Note: Ecobrick furniture is only suitable for indoor use. If used outside, the plastic will break down and all of your hard work will be for nothing.

Ecobrick DIYs to plan

Ecobricks have been used to create everything from stools to garden planters to play areas. Here are a few suggestions:

  • A foot stool
  • A toy box
  • A bench
  • A desk

If you’ve made something with ecobricks, tell me about it on Twitter or in my Facebook group and I’ll link to it here!

Ecobrick projects around the world

I’ve collated a YouTube playlist full of ecobrick projects from all over. Watch this playlist to learn more about ecobrick projects in South Africa, the Philippines and more. If you want the video for your ecobrick project to be added to this playlist, tweet me the link and I’ll check it out!

Frequently asked questions

Where is my nearest drop-off point?

If you genuinely can’t use your ecobricks, then the best way to find your nearest ecobrick collection point is to check GoBrik.

Why do we need to validate our bricks?

Ecobricks are validated to track how much non-recyclable plastic waste has been taken out of the biome. It’s a good motivator for others who want to get started ecobricking.

Can we donate our ecobricks to third world countries?

No. It isn’t the responsibility of other countries to deal with our plastic waste. You should be using your ecobricks yourself. If you can’t, then consider donating to a local community project.

Are ecobricks a fire hazard?

According to the Ecobricks website, making and using ecobricks properly reduces their flammability to “virtually nil”.

Can ecobricks explode?

If little bits of food waste or other biodegradable waste find their way into an ecobrick, then they will produce methane as the material breaks down. This is what can cause the ecobricks to explode. However, there is an ecobrick method for soiled plastics.

Can the packaging for (x) be used in ecobricks?

I’ve addressed this in more detail above, but to summarise you should only stuff ecobricks with clean, dry, soft plastics that can’t be recycled elsewhere.

How can I make ecobricking easier?

Ecobricking isn’t easy on the wrists, is it? The only way to make ecobricking easier (if you’re already doing everything right) is to work on reducing the amount of plastic waste you have in the first place, which you should be doing first!

How heavy should ecobricks be?

Ecobricks should be 0.33kg per litre capacity – so a 2l bottle should weigh at least 600g, whereas a 500ml bottle should weigh at least 150g.

How to register ecobricks?

Register your ecobrick by following the instructions on GoBrik.com – once you’ve followed all the steps someone should be able to validate your ecobrick.

How to bind ecobricks?

Ecobricks are usually sealed together using silicone if using indoors.

Ecobricks
Image – Ecobricks

How to find your nearest ecobrick drop-off point in the UK

Stop! Before you look for a drop-off point, consider whether pushing your plastic waste onto someone else to deal with is the right way to go about it. It isn’t what ecobricks were created for. Try one of the projects I’ve outlined in this blog post, and if you’re still overwhelmed then try reducing your plastic waste.

If you absolutely must get rid of your ecobricks, or are looking for ecobricks for a project, or want to show off your project, or anything else to do with ecobricks in the UK, then you can check GoBrik, join the Ecobricks UK group, or join my own Ecobrick group Ecobrick Exchange UK.


Ecobricking is a great way to put an otherwise useless resource to use. If you’ve decided ecobricking is for you, join the group and share this post so other people can get in on it too! Have more questions? Comment below and I’ll answer them!

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Comments

  1. Soroptimists and friends in the south west are making Eco bricks. I have volunteered to be the collection point. I have dozens! Where is the nearest drop off point? My address is: Catcombe Farm, Somerton, Somerset, TA11 7JH

    Could you also answer a query please? Someone has suggested that they produce methane gas and can explode. Is this correct?

    1. Author

      If the plastics you put in the ecobricks aren’t completely clean and dry, then the food debris can produce methane inside the bottle, just as it would if it had gone to landfill. As for exploding, I guess they probably could, which is why it’s so important to make sure your plastics are clean and dry before putting them in an ecobrick.

  2. I am producing EcoBricks but unless I join Facebook I have no idea where I can drop them off.
    I am looking for a site in South Hampshire.

  3. I wish to start making Ecobricks – I live in Reading in Berkshire . Do you know where I can drop them off please?

    1. Hi Janie. I saw your post. I also am in Reading and am looking for a drop off point! Maybe we can share information?! Jane

  4. Hi

    I live in Todmorden and am looking for someone who can take any ecobricks I might make
    Thanks

    John

    1. Hi John,

      RC of Halifax are beginning to collect eco bricks if that is on any interest

      Regards

  5. Hi Laura could you let me know too in Winchester area?
    My email is (redacted)
    Thanks Elaine

  6. I live in Southampton, can you tell me of a collection point I can take my eco bricks . Thank you.

  7. What about fire hazard if they are used as bricks to build houses and the toxic fumes they will produce if they do catch fire.

  8. I have made some eco brim but have been told to get the validated before I can drop them off to my local collector. But how do I get them validated please?

  9. I found an ecobrick poster online that states you can put chewing gum in an ecobrick. This can’t be right…can it?

  10. can the packaging used for pet food sachets be used in eco bricks ?

    1. Author

      I think as long as it’s clean? That said, I believe Terracycle take pet food sachets and it’s always worth finding another use for something before stuffing it in an ecobrick, not least because it saves you some work!

  11. Can I put the tape from audio cassettes into an Ecobrick please. I have several very old cassettes that are no longer fit for purpose. I can re-cycle the outer casing but not the tape itself. Thanks

  12. Surely you should make it clear that everything must be thoroughly washed and dried before being pushed into the bottle. Who generally washes and dries crisp packets etc to remove all specks of crumb and grease?
    I’m a bit scared we aren’t just dumping our plastic waste on other people rather than ‘ helping’ them.

    1. Author

      That’s a fair worry. People should always make use of their ecobricks themselves before considering passing them off to other people. Ultimately, reducing the waste we create and taking responsibility for it ourselves is what will solve the plastic crisis – until then, ecobricking is here to remind people that what they’re casually throwing away is a resource that can (and should) be put to good use.

  13. Question: Why should ecobricks be validated? Also why have a list of ways of marking them and then they tell you that is not acceptable. I’m afraid I am finding it very hard to keep going with this without any explanation of why validate, and who wants the number and weight to be seen in decades to come anyway? I might end up putting them all in landfill the way I feel at the moment, and I do feel very strongly about all recycling.

    1. Author

      I suspect you’re meant to validate them to show that they’ve met the standard tested and to track how much plastic has been diverted from landfill. What would putting your bricks in landfill achieve?

  14. I assumed one would make these bricks and take them to a central Drop Off place to be shipped out to the Third World somewhere but Gobrik implies one exchanges them here in UK for communities to make stools, benches etc. That’s not what I want. We live near Salisbury, so if anyone knows of a collection point, please let me know.
    Rosemary Gairdner.

  15. The
    Friends of the ?Smith Museum in Stirling, Scotland are planning an environmental event in our garden at the museum in May 2020. Is there anyone near who can come and put on a demonstration?

  16. Hi Rosemary, Theres a Facebook group called ‘Ecobricks Ringwood Area’ you can find out where to drop off your from there

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