Okay, let’s assume you’ve done just about everything you can to avoid single-use plastic but something has defeated you. Maybe somebody sent you a present in the post wrapped in the stuff. Maybe you just couldn’t resist that bag of cheese ‘n’ onion crisps, that pot of salted caramel yoghurt, that packet of chilli peanuts. But throwing the leftover plastic into a landfill bin makes you feel terrible. (And we know, don’t we, that though some plastics are labelled ‘recyclable’ only a tiny percentage actually are.) Well, you could always consider using it to construct an ecobrick.
This is essentially an empty plastic soft drinks bottle liberally stuffed with tiny pieces of unwanted plastic. To make one, you will need to be prepared to spend a lot of time cutting up plastic with a pair of scissors and pushing the bits into the bottle. (Please note, the plastic must be clean and dry before you start. On no account should there be any food residue on it, so if in any doubt, wash and dry the plastic before you start.)
Don’t expect this process to take a short time. We started making our first large 2 litre eco brick weeks ago and it’s still less than half full – though the fact that we avoid plastic whenever we can is largely responsible for the slow progress. You’ll need a long stick to keep prodding the contents down towards the bottom of the bottle (the handle of a feather duster seems to work for us) and you will be astonished how much plastic you can cram into one bottle, but it’s necessary to keep on prodding, because a finished brick needs to weigh a minimum of 200 grams for a small bottle and 500 grams for a large one. That may not sound like a lot but trust me, it is.
Okay, you may ask, what is the point of all this?
Well, for a start, plastic contained in this way cannot release its toxins into the environment.
Ecobricks are also a valuable building aid. They can be used to make modular furniture, garden spaces, walls and even full scale buildings. Once your ecobrick is the correct weight, you can drop it off at a collection point, where it will be weighed, logged and distributed to somebody who will use it for building. You can find out all the details of your nearest collection point and the answers to any other questions you may have at http://www.ecobricks.org.
Best of all, you will have concentrated a whole pile of single-use plastic into a compact, useful piece of equipment that can be reused again and again. If you feel inspired you can choose to do it on a bigger scale, enlisting friends to help you with the process. There are people out there who work as a team, managing to create scores of ecobricks every month.
Or, like us, you can view it as a last resort, somewhere to put those bits of plastic that you just couldn’t manage to avoid.