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Building a Village with Bottles

Friday, May 20, 2016

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Plastic drink bottles are ubiquitous in many of our lives—but in one spot in Panama, they’ll soon make up an entire village.

Canadian-born Panamanian Robert Bezeau is behind the idea to turn an 83-acre plot of land in Bocas del Toro into a “Plastic Bottle Village”—an entire community made of recycled plastic bottles. He’s already built the first model home, and more are on their way.

Plastic bottles lining a metal frame
Photos: Robert Bezeau

According to Bezeau, the first house took about 10,000 bottles to build.

Bezeau came to the idea, he says, after collecting what he estimates to be more than 1 million plastic bottles as part of a recycling program on Bocas del Toro. He uses metal rebar and mesh to create the structure, then fills in with plastic bottles to insulate it, and covers the whole thing with concrete.

The first house took about 10,000 bottles to build; subsequent buildings could use up to 25,000, according to Bezeau.

The Perks of Plastic

Bezeau notes that the air-filled bottles act as an effective insulator against the heat outside, and says the flexible nature of the building material makes the houses earthquake-resistant.

Bezeau says on the project’s website that the goal is a 120-home community along with a boutique eco-lodge. The first phase of development involves 37 houses.

Building a plastic bottle house

Bezeau uses metal rebar and mesh to create the structure, then fills in with plastic bottles to insulate it, and covers the whole thing with concrete.

It's not the first time plastic bottles have been used as building material, though it may be the most ambitious project of its kind to date. (Some monks in Thailand did build a temple out of beer bottles, however.)

In addition to the village, Bezeau has other big ideas for bottles: He tells Durability + Design News he’d like to leverage used plastic bottles in an exchange system, so that less fortunate citizens in Panama could barter bottles for food. He says he’s currently seeking sponsors to help get that project off the ground.

Bezeau is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise funds for the Plastic Bottle Village.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building envelope; Building Envelope; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Recycled building materials

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