As the population grows and income inequality increases along with it, creating affordable housing becomes more challenging. While plastic has been a dirty word in environmental circles for decades, it could hold the key to affordable and sustainable housing. Architects and city planners are looking at uses for plastic that harness environmental technology to build housing for those struggling to make ends meet.
NPR reported that in 2017 China passed the National Sword policy, banning plastic waste from being imported for recycling. This law, which went into effect in January of this year, states that China will no longer be responsible for recycling plastic waste imported from other countries, citing protection of the environment.
Western countries like the U.S. and Mexico, however, have to figure out new ways to recycle materials like plastic, according to Export.gov.
Creating Afforable Housing With Plastic
Globally, plastic waste is reaching catastrophic levels. It’s filling up landfills, clogging waterways, and choking coral and sea life. To combat this epidemic, new uses for plastic are being brainstormed by researchers and governments alike.
According to OECD.org, seven out of every 10 Mexicans are living in a state of poverty. Mexican startup company EcoDom hopes to help mitigate this by using recyclables to construct affordable homes.
EcoDom is collecting plastic and melting it down to create walls that can become the building blocks of viable structures for affordable housing. Each house is built in a week’s time and uses two tons of plastic. The plastic collected is sorted to find the types that will not emit harmful fumes when melted down. The company sells the individual pieces to local governments at a low price; the agency in charge of housing then builds the homes and sells them to low-income families, according to Unreasonable.
Is the U.S. On Board With Plastic Waste Initiatives?
Initiatives to combat our growing waste problems are catching on across the globe, but could they work to tackle the mounting plastic waste issues the United States is facing?
According to National Geographic, about 91 percent of recyclable plastic in the U.S. ends up in landfills or oceans, partly because of complicated recycling guidelines. Startups across the country have been trying to find ways to combat our existing landfill and waste issues. One company, ByFusion, started an Indiegogo campaign last year to raise money to fund ByBlocker, a machine they created that compresses any type of plastic waste into blocks. According to ByFusion, these blocks are viable building materials, which are ideal for insulation, non-load bearing walls and retaining walls — especially interesting given rising sea levels.
That said, reactions to these kinds of projects in the U.S. are mixed; ByFusion didn’t meet even half of its funding goal.
It’s a Group Effort
It’s going to take a lot of ingenuity to bring down the levels of plastic waste globally. It’s also going to take a lot of convincing. Consumers, corporations and governments especially need to be onboard with these initiatives, buy their products, invest in environmental technology and become part of the solution to this collective problem.