The plastic bottle village: A story of how one man recycled 1.5 million plastic bottles

The village of Isla Colón in Bocas Del Toro, Panama is very unique; while it may look utterly normal from the outside, it is the first village in the world where all the houses will be made entirely out of plastic bottles. Yes! Plastic Bottles!

The architect behind this revolutionary idea is Robert Bezeua. Originally from Canada, Robert came to Bocas several years ago and realised that despite its beauty, it had a serious garbage problem. Robert spearheaded the Bocas recycling program in 2012, in which he and some volunteers collected nearly 1 million bottles in 1.5 years. These bottles would have either been strewn on the beaches, washed into the sea or been burnt in landfills — all of which are undesirable. However, now that he had these bottles he was faced with a larger question of what could he do with them?

This is when he had an idea of using these as building material for houses in what he calls the “Plastic Bottle Village”.

In Bezeau’s design, the bottles are stuffed into simple cages made of wire mesh, and then built into a second cage made from steel rebar. The bottle-filled boxes become insulation for each house, and are covered with concrete. A large house can contain about 20,000 bottles–more than an average millennial might use in 80 years. Bezeau suggests that buying a house would cancel out the negative effects of a lifetime of throwing out bottles, thus completely eradicating your plastic footprint on earth. While it does not exactly solve the problem, it’s cheaper and more durable than recycling as it doesn’t use electricity. Also, it removes these bottles out of harm’s way, and reduces pollution.

Apart from the obvious environmental advantages, these houses are earthquake and tsunami resistant (Bezeau believes that in case of a natural disaster theoretically a broken section of the house could effectively become a floating device); heat resistant (so no need for air-conditioning) and non-carcinogenic.

Bezeau is also uplifting the lives of the locals in Panama through this project. The Plastic Bottle Village offers dry food in exchange for plastic bottles. Bezeau believes that this would give less fortunate families the opportunity to obtain food, and also educate them about recycling while creating an incentive to search for PET. The barter system is simple and very effective.

(Image from Plastic Bottle Village)

This is a unique solution to reusing plastic waste while at the same time creating opportunities for the locals to gain insight into the very real problem of plastic pollution. We commend Bezeau and his motto of “changing the world, without changing the Earth, one home at a time.”

Read more here.

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