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‘Why we’re recycling plastic bottles into houses’

Along the road leading to the Idu Train Station in Abuja are a few communities. Located at one of them, Paipe, is a house made…

Along the road leading to the Idu Train Station in Abuja are a few communities. Located at one of them, Paipe, is a house made with unique materials: plastic bottles. Daily Trust visited, and within the building was the site engineer, Chidozie Lawrence Uttamx, who expressed hope that plastic bottle houses will catch on, not just in the rural areas, but cities too. “I hopes it becomes an environmentally-friendly alternative to homes made of cement blocks soon enough,” he said.

From Uttamx’s explanation, the plastic bottle houses have the potential of becoming a sustainable construction option and with about two thirds of construction costs cut. “Used plastic bottles litter everywhere. In a country of almost 200 million people who consume bottled water and soft drinks daily, this may well be one of the country’s innovative ways of waste management and recycling,” he told Daily Trust.

“Anyone who can build a house with mud can afford to build a house with plastic bottles, since they are accessible,” Uttamx said. He added that the building technique is, while relatively simple, involves a demanding process. A one-bedroom version, like the one Daily Trust visited, requires about 10,000 plastic bottles sourced from either a man who gathers the bottles for a fee, or scavenged from rivers, or open drainages, as the bottles gather at the banks, sometimes in large quantities.

Afterward acquisition, the bottles are assembled, packed full of sand and then layered in rows and bound together with string. This forms a base that is bound together with either mud or cement. The house is thereafter roofed with zinc, and then the windows and doors fitted.

Uttamx said the construction period takes about a month. “Which isn’t much, really. As long as we have bottles, we’re good to go. We would have finished in less time than that, but because of the rain, we had a few hindrances but none-the-less, the house was completed in good time.”

Uttamx revealed plans to build more in the community. “This is the only one for now. It’s the prototype, but so many people have shown interest. Right here in Paipe, we are going to build a 3-bedroom house. We will be giving the houses we’ve built to them because they leased the land to us. Presently, we are gathering the bottles to make the next set of houses and in two weeks, we already have 40,000 plastic bottles out of the 60,000 we need.”

Uttamx pointed out that the houses can withstand the effects of weather just fine. A future of plastic bottle houses seems realistic in their minds, and there seems to be no reason to disagree as the houses have proven to be as sturdy as the more mainstream cement ones. 

On plans to expand the plastic bottle house project, Uttamx spoke more: “We are in discussions with a major estate developer who plans to build an estate of 200 plastic bottle houses, to sell and lease at affordable prices.”

A step higher on sustainability on environment-friendliness, the plastic bottle houses are also completely reliant on natural energy, as they are supplied by solar panels, with water pumped from a nearby stream. This, Uttamx says, is ideal for low-income earners, the targets of the project in the first instance.

The research for the project was funded by The Royal Academy of Engineering and De Montfort University in Leicester, United Kingdom. The Nigerian consultant on the project and Contractor is Awonto Konsolts Limited and the solar panels donated by Green Start Energy Limited.

“In Nigeria today, this may be one of the few forms of recycling. We are using waste products to provide affordable housing. It’s a way to make life easier for everyone,” Uttamx smiled. 


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