Columbia-based Conceptos Plásticos transforms plastic and rubber waste into LEGO-like construction material, and uses it to build houses for those who need it.
Conceptos Plásticos was set up by architect Oscar Mendez to reduce the environmental impact of plastic by reusing it in construction, and to tackle the booming populations in cities across Latin America.
Recyclable plastic material is collected. The materials are then thoroughly cleaned, before being ground into a rough power, mixed, melted and moulded into a range of shapes – mostly beams, blocks and pillars – which lock together to form buildings. The LEGO-like bricks are then used to build houses for the local community.
In Colombia’s capital, Bogota, it is estimated that 650 tonnes of plastic is thrown away every single day.
The company has already helped to house 42 families displaced by conflict in the town of Guapi, Colombia, three smaller permanent shelters, and eight houses. Conceptos Plásticos have recycled 120 tonnes of plastic in the process.
Conceptos Plásticos involve local communities in every part of the process – from encouraging them to collect various waste plastics through to training them in how to build these structures, giving them ownership over their homes and providing skills they can take elsewhere.
The plastic homes, which don’t need adhesive to be strong and sturdy, can be assembled in five days by four people. The cost for a house divided into two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, dining room and kitchen, and can be built by four people in just five days. The cost is considerably lower than traditional systems used in rural areas too, at $5,200.
Conceptos Plásticos plastic homes will eventually biodegrade, but not for more than 500 years. Until then, it offers residents a durable shelter that is fireproof and earthquake-resistant, and requires minimal maintenance.
The award-winning business seeks to help reduce extreme poverty and unofficial settlements primarily in Colombia. However, given its success as a sustainable model to tackle homelessness and plastic waste, Conceptos Plásticos is now looking to extend its reach to other countries too.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea