One man's trash is another man's treasure. And in this particular case, that couldn't be more true. In the middle of a forest, on an island off the coast of Panama, an entirely new kind of village is springing up, with each house made of tens of thousands of recycled plastic bottles.
When Robert Bezeau, a Canadian native, first arrived in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, he was shocked at the amount of plastics and other rubbish he saw polluting the beautiful island paradise. He decided he wanted to tackle the challenge, and set up a plastic recycling service to help the community clean up the local environment. A couple of years later, he estimates that he has picked up over a million plastic bottles. Now he's taking his work one step further, and using those discarded plastics to create the world's very first plastic bottle village.
Under the motto “deja solo huellas” (leave only footprints), Bezeau's idea is to help people neutralise the negative effects of their time on this planet, at least in terms of plastic bottles. He estimates that the average human, living to the age of 80, will use approximately 14 or 15,000 plastic bottles in their lifetime. By living in a two-story house that has 15,000 recycled plastic bottles within its walls, that staggeringly large number is cancelled out - the maths is pretty simple.
Sustainable Construction by Building with Bottles
The way the houses are put together actually looks relatively straightforward. First the plastic bottles are placed in metal cages, to create light-weight, air-filled building blocks, which are then hooked together to create the walls. The walls are then rendered with a layer of concrete. As well as being a sustainable form of construction, by recycling huge amounts of plastic that might otherwise end up in the ocean and add to anthropogenic phenomena such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, using plastic bottles to build houses actually has surprising structural benefits too.
Why Live in a Plastic Bottle House?
The plastic bottles are full of air, which keeps the walls well-insulated and maintains a cool temperature inside the house; an important feature if you’re living in a Panamian jungle! Another plus point is its earthquake resistance: the plastic bottles give the walls a certain degree of flexibility that could mean the difference between life and death if the ground ever begins to tremble.
The man behind it all himself admits that the idea sounds completely crazy, and maybe it is. The project certainly won't be making a significant dent in the planet's huge plastic waste problem, but when it comes to that particular corner of the world, it's an initiative that will definitely be making a big positive change on a local level.
If you've got five minutes, the mini-documentary about Bezeau and his plastic bottle village (where some of the plastic houses look more like plastic palaces!) is well-worth checking out: