An old remedy

Hi everyone, Marianne here,

I will be with you for the next 6 months to share my material discoveries with you.  Today I thought I would write about a material that cannot be custom ordered. I’ll give you three clues to see if you can guess what it is based on this information:

1)       It’s a material that is ubiquitous, so much so that it is even seen as a nuisance .

2)       It’s a material that was banned in Australia

3)      It’s a material that you have probably purchased or used at least once in your life

Have you guessed yet?  If you have guessed plastic bottles,  that is the correct answer.  If you enjoy travelling to foreign countries, as I do, you have most likely been guilty of consuming water from a bottled source.  It is after all the only convenient way to stay healthy for a short duration while visiting a foreign country.  After spending a month in Ghana, I cringed as I calculated my environmental footprint.  In water bottles alone, I drank 5 two litre bottles a day x 30 days = 150 bottles.  Imagine my excitement when I read about a one of a kind house built in Nigeria that is proving plastic bottles to have potential as a durable building material. The solution is incredibly simple, the bottles were filled with sand to act as building blocks and laid on their sides to create curvilinear structural walls.  The photograph speaks for itself:

Plastic bottle house in the village of Yelwa

Constructing with recycled bottles proved to be an old idea.  As I researched the matter further, I stumbled on the Calico Bottle House in the Calico Ghost Town of Yermo, CA, built in 1902.  What is fascinating about this building is that history is literally found within its walls.  It was unfortunately torn down in the 1980’s.  I would like to think that if the Calico Bottle House stood the test of time, it represents a hopeful precedent for utilizing plastic bottles as a building material; and perhaps one day the cycle of life of the plastic bottle will be complete itself.

Calico Bottle House


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