Closing the Loop of plastic packaging: Global best practice examples for repurposing recycled plastic – Part 1 (Construction and Housing)

As we continue our efforts towards “Closing the Loop”, we would like to highlight some global best practice initiatives leveraged to repurpose recycled plastic in different end-market industries. We are thankful to our partners ETH Zurich for their invaluable research in amassing and documenting these numerous examples from across the globe.

This blog will cover successful initiatives organised by industry around the world that have proven inspirational for a sustainable future, targeting environmental, social, and economic well-being.

Construction and Housing Industries (Infrastructure, Indoor and Outdoor Furniture) is a key industry where we can leverage recycled plastic. However, as durability and resilience are crucial criteria in these domains, the objective is to ensure similar or superior robustness in the repurposed product containing recycled plastic vis-a-vis the original.

Let’s look at some significant examples of Housing Infrastructure:

Floor, Roof and Wall Tiles: a non-profit in Bangalore, Swaccha, has come up with a solution that can “convert discarded plastic waste into tiles that can be used for wall cladding, apartment walkways and swimming pools”. Residents and officials work together hand in hand to fight against and conquer plastic waste pollution. Swaccha Tiles are made from recycled Polypropylene (PP) materials, which are recyclable, heat resistant and fire retardant. Such projects present a good fit for emergent countries, since they are affordable, durable, resistant and can be installed relatively quickly and easily over damaged floors.

Another example of Floor and Wall tiles from plastic waste, coming from Rwanda, produces 100% recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE): Meet The Woman Who’s Making Tiles From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Polymers and Engineered Roofing Tiles, made from composite material and recylate (recycled plastic), are two times lighter and stronger vs. natural clay and concrete tiles: Eco Blocks and Tiles – Green Building Materials Made to Last.

Interlocking Construction Bricks are real-life lego-like bricks made from recycled plastics produced by Conceptos Plasticos. The Conceptos Plasticos association from Colombia has already started a School project in the Ivory Coast: “The first few classrooms cost about $14,500 each, compared to $16,500 for a cement classroom. The price is expected to drop about 20% when the bricks are made locally.”

Interlocking “lego” bricks are much more cost-effective vs. regular cement bricks and can easily be assembled to create walls for homes, schools and other structures. Furthermore, the lower cost allows communities to build homes for people who lack decent housing using better quality materials, hence improving the quality of life for the less fortunate. This process helps the socio-economic well-being of underdeveloped countries, improves our environment and generates awareness for recycling.

Wood-plastic composites present another successful repurposing initiative for the Construction and Housing industries; their usage ranges from benches to floor decks.

The company Govaplast in Belgium produces benches that are made out of 100% high quality recycled plastic residue, mainly from the nutrition and packaging industry, and are UV resistant and weatherproof. Plastics are grounded, mixed and fused together under high temperatures and pressed into moulds. Wood-plastic composites can also serve for decking, similar to the Swaccha Tiles, for indoor as well as outdoor surfaces. The company Trex in the United States, produces composite decking made out of 95% recycled materials which does not require maintenance as opposed to regular wood.

Recycled plastic can also be a solution to more affordable Indoor Furniture and Household Items.

Plastic waste, ranging from soda bottles, trays, even eyeglasses, is repurposed to produce lower-cost indoor furniture such as chairs, tables and shelves, creating attractive and accommodating Household Accessories.

The Ghanaian company Miniplast manufactures resistant chairs, tables, and buckets from high-quality plastic materials. Even carpets can be produced from plastic to cover floors: Carpet made of 100% recycled PET fibers.

Smaller household items such as bins, toys, stationery, storage units and clotheslines (100% LDPE), as well as materials used for cleaning, are particularly relevant for developing countries in terms of affordability and local demand.

These initiatives in the construction and housing industry are inspiring and have proven to be an interesting solution to address plastic waste. Not only do they allow for more affordable and in some cases more effective results, they also satisfy our needs without endangering the planet and offer jobs, thereby, improving the living standards of the communities they serve.

Stay tuned to learn more about practice examples of repurposing recycled plastic for Urban and Municipal needs.

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