How to Build Ecobricks: A Creative Solution for Repurposing Plastic
Plastic waste is one of the most overwhelming issues our planet faces today. Each year, we generate around 300 million tons of plastic waste — that’s almost equivalent to the weight of the entire human population! It’s not that hard to believe, considering that we encounter plastic, new and used, nearly everywhere we go: The grocery store, the mall, takeout restaurants, the ocean, and even in the middle of the woods. And sadly, much of it is cheap disposable plastic, designed to be discarded after just one use. It’s virtually impossible to live 100 percent plastic-free today, so the big question is: Where do we put it all? It’s a heavy question, considering that plastic essentially exists forever; but thanks to TikTok, many people are learning about an inventive way to use plastic’s longevity for good.
Ecobricks, also called bottle bricks, are a fantastic way to repurpose plastic waste. The concept is super simple: You take a transparent PET plastic bottle and pack it completely with collected and cut-up plastics. Yup, that’s it — and you’ll be surprised just how much trash you can fit into one bottle! Not only does collecting plastic waste this way keep it from ending up in nature, but there are thousands of ways to use finished bottle bricks: For building structures, playgrounds, foundations for gardens and backyard projects, and even furniture! Keep reading for some steps on how to make your own ecobrick, and check out the TikToks linked below for more tips & tricks.
Step by Step: How to Make an Ecobrick
1: Collect, Clean, Dry, and Cut Up Plastics. Make sure all your plastics are completely clean and dry, to avoid any bacteria growth inside the bottle. Cutting everything up is optional, but this will make it much easier for you to pack your bottle; and you can even (carefully) use a paper shredder for soft, flatter plastics like bread bags. Remember: Plastics ONLY!
2: Choose Your Bottle. You’ll need a non-crushed PET plastic bottle, with a secure screw-on top. Starting small ( like a 16oz water bottle) is best for beginners. If you’re planning to use your ecobricks to build something, consider using the same type of bottles — the similar shapes will fit together better than bottles of different sizes.
3: Get a Sturdy Stick. This is essential to the ecobricking process, as this stick will let you pack down your plastics and fill every ounce of space in your bottle. Just make sure the stick fits easily into the opening, and that it’s tall enough to push down to the bottom of the bottle. You can purchase your own “Earthwand” here, which experienced ecobrickers swear by.
4: Start with Soft Plastic. Fill the bottom of your bottle with soft plastic, like a plastic bag. Soft plastic is best for filling any “legs” or dips on the bottle. Consider using one solid color for the entire bottom — this will allow you (or other users) to create fun patterns/designs when building with ecobricks, making them more functional in the long run. This is a great example of how bottle bricks support circularity: You’re creating something genuinely useful out of something that would normally be thrown away, therefore avoiding a ton of waste.
5: Pack It Tight: Fill your bottle about halfway with loose plastic, then pack it all down with your stick, rotating all the way around the bottle. Try to mix layers of soft and hard plastics, so that your bottle has an even consistency once full. Seriously, you’ll be amazed at how much you can fit! When the bottle is finally full (but not so full that the plastic puts pressure on the cap), screw the cap on tightly and make sure there are no rips or ruptures in the bottle.
6: Weigh and Log Your Ecobrick. The weight versus volume of a bottle brick is a good indicator of its quality; so you’ll want to weigh yours, especially if you plan to donate it. Ecobricks.org has a great infographic showing you how to calculate the density of your ecobrick. After that, you can enter all of the information into the GoBrik app, which will give you a unique serial number for the bottle and add your contribution towards the global effort of repurposing plastic.
From here, you can either use your bottle brick yourself, or donate it to initiatives all over the world. Ecobricks.org is the holy grail for ecobricking: They have a bunch of how-tos for personal projects, in addition to tons of resources about plastic and how it’s affecting the planet. They also have a super useful dropoff locator, which can help you find local organizations who will take and use your finished bottle bricks.
Besides the obvious benefits of ecobricking — avoiding plastic pollution, promoting circularity, etc. — this movement actually fosters a more positive attitude towards plastic, highlighting the beauty and simplicity of reusing materials. While Producing less plastic overall is the best solution to plastic pollution, ecobricking is a useful solution that keeps plastic out of our landfills and our ecosystems. These bottles transcend borders, inspiring people all over the planet to think differently about how they use (and reuse) plastic.