2018 Dec 20
Being a small island, we sure do have some alarming rates when it comes to plastic pollution. Sri Lanka generates an average of 5,163,689 kg of plastic waste in a day and annually this leads to an accumulation of 1 billion pounds worth of plastic and polythene.
How much of this plastic litters our streets? Just how much ends up in landfills or our oceans?
Research labeling Lanka as the 5th largest ocean polluter took the nation by storm in the recent years but yet, there is evidence right before our eyes that we can be doing more as a community to change this situation.
Two young Sri Lankan women are attempting to do just this with their initiative, The Ecobrick Project. This is a call for others to follow in their footsteps by using this simple concept and take more action in protecting our environment.
What is an ecobrick?
An ecobrick is a plastic bottle packed up tightly with other plastic items to form a reusable building block. The ecobrick has been found to be durable enough to use as construction material that can be kept out of landfills and the ocean and used instead to make structures such as furniture, walls and buildings! It would seem that the only limit to what you can make with an ecobrick is your imagination.
Research has found that if a town has over 1 million households – if each home produced one ecobrick a week, it would be enough to build over 600 classrooms a year. But instead, we often send that potential to the dump.
Parami Peiris and Nadiya Azmy first stumbled upon this concept as volunteers at ECO-V, a non-profit organization engaged in environmental conservation where President and Founder Kanchana Weerakoon, one of Lanka’s leading conservationists, introduced them to the idea of using ecobricks to curb our plastic usage and disposal.
“My inspiration for the ecobrick project was the strong belief that it is each of our individual duties to control and manage the non-recyclable waste that we produce! When I learnt about the ecobrick, I realized that we can’t keep holding business and the government accountable for our waste- we need to be responsible for our trash!
The ecobrick project is one that will have a significant impact on plastic pollution in Sri Lanka ONLY if every individual takes responsibility for making one! An ecobrick per household is that household’s waste being prevented from going into our landfills – imagine if every household made one?
It is a home project that is so simple yet life changing. Once you start making your ecobrick you realize how much plastic you use as an individual on a daily basis, and that level of self-awareness is truly important in an era where plastic is EVERYWHERE. So in a way, this project inspires self-reflection and hopefully promotes more conscious consumerism!”
Astounded by how straightforward this method was, Parami and Nadiya decided to take matters a step further and start The Ecobrick Project to actively educate people on the importance of ecobricks as well as conduct awareness campaigns. Their latest project includes the creation of a Christmas tree, set up at their stall at the Good Market. This tree was made entirely out of 112 bottles and accounted for 45.75 kg of plastic that would have otherwise been littering our lands and oceans.
“The ecobrick is accessible to anyone since making it is actually really simple but the first thing I would like to tell the community about plastic is not to make ecobricks but rather to not use plastic at all.
What you should understand with whatever plastic that you do use after reducing, re-using and recycling, is that you should be a conscious consumer. If you do use plastic and put it in your dustbin, this does not mean it is getting recycled since most of the plastic we use is not recyclable because it has a lamination. It will then end up in either a landfill or the ocean. So if we could be a little bit more conscious and make an ecobrick instead, then we’ll be doing a huge service to the environment.”
– Nadiya Azmy
We should remember that this is NOT the solution for plastic usage- this is not an excuse to use plastics on a daily basis. This is a last-resort technique for all those unavoidable or non-recyclable plastics (such as polystyrene, plastic bags and laminated plastics) that we use while we try to figure out how to cut these toxic substances out of our lives permanently.
So your FIRST step should be to scrap plastics. Avoid using plastic bags, drinking with plastic straws etc. as much as possible. Your next step should be to responsibly dispose of the plastics that you find yourselves unavoidably encountering. And since not everything you use can be responsibly recycled, you can take matters into your own hands and make an ecobrick.
How to make your own ecobrick:
1. Clean and dry the plastic waste you want to use for your ecobrick.
2. Compress this waste into a plastic bottle using a stick.
3. Pack tightly throughout to ensure that it’s incompressible.
4. Squeeze with one hand, if squeeze<10%, your ecobrick is complete and ready for use!
What can you do with your ecobrick once you’ve made it?
Ecobricks can be used creatively in many ways but you always have the option of donating! You can head over to The Ecobrick Project stall at the Good Market, where you can make your donations.
Visit their stall for more information and follow them on Instagram @theecobrickproject for more updates.
Parami and Nadiya have just started their journey and have big plans for The Ecobrick Project. They are currently working alongside researchers to publish more data involving plastics and are also working on forming partnerships that will enable them to take their project to bigger spaces where they will be able to focus on using these hardy ecobricks for larger structures such as walls, rooms and eventually whole houses!
This is a refreshing example of how youth in Sri Lanka can get more involved and make an inspiring difference in the community. Follow their lead and #stashyourtrash so we can give our marine life their home back and make Sri Lanka the beautiful country it once was.