Can plastic villages be a sustainable alternative?
The average consumer by the time he reaches the age of eighty, leaves behind a minimum of 14,400 plastic bottles in his wake. This has devastating effects on the environment. Plastic takes hundreds of years to erode and will never actually fully disappear. The plastic waste often ends up in the stomachs of fish and birds, resulting in undue harm.
The Plastic Bottle Village might be a way to curb this wanton destruction of our environment. Such villages are designed to be built in harmony with nature. At the forefront of this movement is Colon Island, the main island in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago in Panama. With over 150,000 tourists visiting each year, the plastic village is a response to the increasing waste left by visitors to the beautiful island.
A typical 100 square meter house is built using 14,000 recycled plastic bottles. The reuse of its core materials allows homes to be built in a small fraction of the time it takes to build a bricks and mortar house. The plastic village in Isla Colon is located on some of the island’s prime real estate. The residents are ensured both of a positive return on investment and a negative carbon footprint, while also raising awareness of the need to address the spiraling over reliance on plastic products.
The village aims to maximize the benefits from its natural setting to create green zones, with areas for yoga, hiking and mini-parks for barbeques. The village is a first for other things also, with revolutionary eco-building techniques allowing for the minimum impact on the environment. The main insulation inside the concrete walls of the houses is also recycled plastic. The homes are even earthquake resistant; necessary in a country that has had four minor earthquakes in the past 30 days alone.
The eco building techniques allow the homes to stay cool enough for air conditioning not to be required, and this will mean less energy consumption for the village. The village is also entirely solar friendly. The community offers three types of model homes, all designed in collaboration with top Panama architects. There is also an option to custom design homes. Each one is equipped with piped water catchment gutters, plumbing electrical standard windows, doors and septic tank systems. The average temperature difference between the outside and inside wall of a plastic bottle home is 17C, making them extremely energy efficient.
Meet the founder
Robert Bezeau, originates from Canada. After spearheading the Bocas Recycling Program in 2012 he got the idea for the plastic village. During the recycling program he was astounded by the amount of recycled materials being retrieved from the garbage bins, materials that would have gone directly to a landfill or to be burned. He estimates that in the course of 1.5 years his team collected over 1 million bottles. It ended up being a no-brainer, with such a huge quantity of usable materials going to waste, the idea for the plastic village was a logical reaction.
Perhaps one day in the future we will see recycled plastic buildings and skyscrapers.