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!
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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
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
If you genuinely can’t use your ecobricks, then the best way to find your nearest ecobrick collection point is to check GoBrik.
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.
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.
According to the Ecobricks website, making and using ecobricks properly reduces their flammability to “virtually nil”.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Ecobricks are usually sealed together using silicone if using indoors.
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!