We’ve Hit The Plastic Bottle Brick Wall Of Wastefulness

The Unexpected Second Lives of Our Recyclables

Today is finally Friday, but it’s been a very long week. You had two midterms, made it to most of your classes, worked Monday and Tuesday night, and stayed out way too late last night.   You aren’t going to make it through the day without some wings from Red Bull, you tell yourself.
So you head into the UMC and grab a refrigerated aluminum can, pay the nice lady at the register, and head out towards your next class. You finish the can on your way to class and throw it in a recycling bin before finding your usual seat.  As you get ready for class to begin, your cheeks begin to warm with the rush of caffeine and you’re feeling better already. Yes, good job, you recycled.  But did you stop to think where our recyclables could actually end up? Where does their second life take them to? Join me as we follow those millions of recyclable bottles, bags and beyond that get repurposed in ways you may not be aware of.


Image taken from: http://www.upcyclethat.com/plastic-bottle-fish-sculptures/3108/

Plastic Bottles

This giant installation pictured above was put on display in Brazil during the UN conference on Sustainable Development, more commonly known as Rio+20.  The fish sculpture was made entirely from salvaged plastic bottles from the ocean, serving as a reminder of the major issue of oceanic pollution.

Plastic Bags


Danish student, Lise Vestergaard, was visiting India in 2013 when she came up with a solution that tackled two major problems at once that were plaguing India’s population– stable housing and enormous amounts of plastic waste.

The first problem she noticed was that although many people were collecting aluminum cans and bringing them to recycling stations for a few rupees, Vestergaard noticed a large amount of plastic bags were being left behind as litter in the streets.

The second problem plaguing India’s population is that many people have homes made out of mud bricks that are not able to withstand the harsh weather that comes during monsoon season.


To solve both of these issues at once, Vestergaard began experimenting in her own oven by melting plastic bags into brick molds, with the process and product eventually evolving into the image shown here.  These brick are strong enough to withstand six tons of pressure, faring much better in monsoon season and simulatenously clearing the streets of soft plastic waste.

images taken from:http://www.technologist.eu/turning-old-plastic-bags-into-bricks/


I bet you never think twice about what your shoes could do after they’ve served your feet for a year or two.  Nike has, with their program called ‘Nike Grind’.

Nike’s vision for their company is to have all of their products become part of a ‘closed loop’ system, where eventually no waste will be created using the fewest possible materials and created in such a way that will allow the materials to be endlessly recycled and resused.

image from:https://www.wired.com/2016/06/adidass-newest-shoe-made-recycled-ocean-plastic/#slide-1

Adidas, on the other hand, is tackling oceanic pollution by making shoes out of plastic materials and gill nets collected from the ocean.

Aluminum Cans

One of the most innovative recycling ideas, however, comes out of Sao Paolo where one man is smelting aluminum cans into unique furniture.  Watch the short video below to see how this beautiful process works.

video taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KvOZY6H0g0








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4 responses to “We’ve Hit The Plastic Bottle Brick Wall Of Wastefulness

  1. amyquandt

    Are most things we recycle still going to a standard recycling facility or are these more innovative ways of recycling becoming more popular?


    • megangeraty

      Most recyclables are still going to standard recycling facilities. These more innovative ways of recycling often involve recyclables that are either littered and then salvaged, or specific collections such as Nike who reclaims their products once consumers are done with them.


  2. kennethprior

    Great article! All of these inventive recycling options are very interesting and forward thinking, but I am skeptical of the traction that they could gain as a feasible method of recycling. Do you believe that large-scale plastic bag melting operations will pop up in the next decade? It seems like a great idea to me and I don’t see why people wouldn’t look towards this option, I guess it is just an issue of proposing and implementing the method to larger powers instead of individuals.


    • megangeraty

      I believe that innovative solutions like the plastic bag bricks lie greatly in the hands of individuals as opposed to larger powers. In countries that are struggling with poverty, like India, this solution is a good idea because it is the people taking matters into their own hands without waiting for government help which could take far too long. Immediate solutions like this, though probably not so environmentally friendly with the burning of plastic and all, are a great alternative given the lack of resources and such.


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