QUITO, Ecuador— The world produces about 110 million tons per year. In more visual terms, if one plastic bottle was stacked on top of another, it would reach Saturn before running out. The dilemma that the world faces today is what to do with such copious amounts of plastic waste?
A nonprofit organization called Reuse Everything has come up with an innovative and sensible solution. In developing nations like Ecuador where plastic waste is abundant due to minimal reduction resources, Reuse Everything has developed a recycling method that uses excess plastic to create plastic thatch roofs. Not only is this project environmentally friendly, but it is helping curb poverty in developing nations.
The production method is easy and affordable. The simple process involves cutting the top and bottom of a plastic bottle, then the cylinder of plastic is sliced longitudinally to form a rectangle of plastic. The plastic is then flattened into rectangular sheets and the sheets are cut into strips and fused together to create longer ribbons of plastic. Unlike traditional recycling methods, this process is less energy-intensive and can be done almost anywhere.
For Ecuadorians, this alleviates the nuisance and discomfort of a tin roof and the volatility of a grass-thatched roof. Since the average temperature in South and Central America is about 90 degrees, a home with a tin roof is often unbearable, as the metal traps heat and consequently turns homes into saunas. Also, with daily tropical storms the pattering of rain is nearly deafening. Grass thatched roofs are equally as unreliable; they leak when waterlogged and often collapse.
Plastic thatch possesses the water-resistant qualities of tin and the ventilation that grass provides. It muffles sound while permitting light to filter in for a brighter interior living space. It has superior heat venting qualities and is 10 times more durable than natural thatch.
Above all, this alternative roofing creates entrepreneurial opportunities for local people. Latin American nations are plagued by poverty due to lack of resources and a stagnant economy. In Ecuador particularly, 27.3 percent of the nation lives below the poverty line.
These plastic-thatched roofs are made of local waste, therefore requiring a local labor force to fabricate, sell and install the roofs, which are expected to last more than a decade. The program therefore helps citizens out of poverty and establishes a stable workforce for the nation.
Reuse Everything has devised a plan that kills nearly three birds with one stone. It provides a profitable industry in a third world nation, thus reducing poverty, while ameliorating the daily grievances of citizens, in an environmentally conscious manner. The best part? It’s sustainable. From the looks of it, we will not be running out of plastic bottles anytime soon.
– Samantha Scheetz