Plastic Bricks create recycled classroom

Plastic Bricks create recycled classroom

October 6, 2019 / blog / Comments (0)

Plastic bricks builds a classroom

For the people who wonder what happens to their recycled waste, where it goes, who reuses it and for what purpose, the following is a inspiring example of recycling plastic waste.

UNICEF builds recycled plastic classrooms

Plastic Recycled bricks, builds school
Plastic Recycled bricks, builds school

A Columbian company called Conceptos Plasticos (a for-profit recycling company) in partnership with the United Nations agency for children (UNICEF) have developed a plastic brick made from recyclable plastic. Each Plastic brick is designed to inter-locked with each other a bit like Lego.

To demonstrate the innovation they have built several prototype school classrooms in the city of Abidjan on the Ivory Coast. If the prototype project is successful it could provide a much needed income to waste collectors of poor countries in West Africa. Furthermore it would provide a less expensive method of constructing essential community buildings like school classrooms.

The owners of the Concepto Plastico Oscar Andrés Méndez and his wife Isabel Cristina Gámez are currently planning to move to Abidjan where their new factory is under construction. Once completed it will employ 30 staff and work with more than 1000 pickers who comb the local landfill in Akouedo selling plastics bricks for recycling. Another landfill site in nearby Abobo are already preparing for the factory to open and are storing waste.

Social Demand

Once the factory is built UNICEF intends to buy plastic bricks for construction of more than 530 classrooms needed in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).They believe the country will need over 15,000 new classrooms by 2021 and 30,000 by 2025.Out of 300 tones of daily waste in Abidjan only 5% is recycled according to a UNICEF spokesperson. So there will be no shortage of plastic waste that can be recycled in the future.

Plastic Pollution and health

Plastic Recycled material

Plastic Recycled bricks, builds school

Discarded plastics not only harm the environment but also affect the health of children in Abidjan. The country is faced with major health issues from pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria caused in part by plastic pollution. It stems from contamination of water and unwittingly provides a haven for mosquitos to breed. A single discarded plastic container can act as stagnant water pool fostering malaria carrying mosquitos.

The beauty of Plastic Bricks

Transportation of plastic bricks is much less than conventional materials due to their lightness. Each brick is about half a meter long (50 cm) and designed to interlock with each other.
Using plastic bricks improves the speed of building construction. This is due to several factors, ease of assembly; no cement is needed, the bricks interlock with each other for rigidity and being lightweight they are easier to handle. An average sized classroom can be built in just a couple of weeks using plastic bricks.The completed structure with provides better cooling than conventional materials. Plastic bricks offer more durability and do not require maintenance after the wet season. Plastic bricks are non-toxic (PVC free) and can be rendered with plaster or wood according to taste.The bricks are fire resistant essential for an environment like a school and remain cooler in the hot temperatures.


Once the plastic bricks are manufactured locally the cost of building construction will drop further compared with conventional materials. For example the first classrooms using plastic bricks cost approx $14,500 each compared to conventional concrete construction at $16,500.

Designed to be interlocking

Plastic Recycled bricks, builds school
Plastic Recycled bricks, builds school

Lightweight material

The lightweight properties of the plastic bricks make them easier to transport by smaller vehicles such as bikes, pick-up trucks, pack animals or hand carried across difficult remote terrain. Trained workmen and women can assemble a classroom made from plastic bricks in less than 2 weeks. They can be built anywhere where there’s connection to a power source like solar to supply electricity. It takes approximately 5 tons of plastic waste to build a single story classroom.

Bottom Line

The Plastic Brick project has created valuable new partnerships between UNICEF, the manufacturers, the environmentalists, the educationalists and local health authorities. The longer term social benefits will be income rise for the waste pickers community who only earn as little as $8.50 to $17 a week, the average minimum wage is $25 per week.

Once the factory is built it will handle more general (less specific) plastic waste enabling pickers to sell direct to the factory avoiding a middleman who takes a cut to separate non-recyclable and recyclable plastics.

This initiative can provide encouragment from leaders around the world on the obvious benefits of recycling. All countries rich or poor can benefit by implementing a recycling programme. As part of the recycling journey mixed waste has to be processed first at a materials recovery facility (MRF). These MRF plants operate like giant sorting factories, separating mixed waste into recyclable waste before it is sold and shipped to manufactures like Conceptos Plasticos.

In the United Arab Emirates, there is a new, state-of-the-art facility that has the most efficient recovery rate of any MRF in the UAE; FARZ, which in Arabic means ‘segregation.’ Fully financed and wholly operated by Imdaad, it is one of the largest fully-automated MRFs in the region, incorporates advanced separation and recovery technologies, and leverages the power of Artificial Intelligence to boost efficiency. With a daily capacity to process 1,200 tons, FARZ segregates and reclaims valuable materials such as ferrous and non-ferrous metals, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) among others, from the Commercial and Industrial (C&I) and source-segregated mixed waste that Imdaad collects daily from different parts of the city. FARZ’s strong waste management approach enables it to manage the waste handling behavior of the 200+ nationalities that reside in the UAE

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Individual pickers and collectives

Plastic Recycled bricks, builds school
Plastic Recycled bricks, builds school


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peter caush

Director The School Agency