Introducing the Ocean Ecobrick

The Bali Ecobrick team visited the Island of Santen this past week. Located on the mouth of a river that flows out into the ocean between the coast of Java and Bali, Indonesia, the community is overloaded with plastic. Mainly a fisher and shell cultivator community, the residents watch in despair as plastic washes to their shore in a never ending flow.


The Ecobrick team had been invited by a youth organization in the adjacent city of Banyuwangi. As we got going ecobricking, one of the first questions to be asked was “Have you done this workshop in the cities?! So much of this plastic is not our own.

The primary purpose of Ecobricks is to give individuals a way to be deeply responsible for their own plastic. However, given the unique situation of Santen Island, where residents are have soooo much non-community plastic to deal with (well, it’s not that unique– so mainly other coastal regions face the same dilemma) the Ecobrick team decided to focus on the plastic that was collected on the beach 10 meters from the workshop.

Working with the insights of the local fisher folk and community leaders, we finalised a new Ecobrick design concept that we have been working on for the last year in conjunction with Trash Hero Indonesia. Trash Hero, who also collect plastic on the beaches in South East Asia, have also been struggling to find easy applications for their plastic waste. We have partnered with them to experiment with merging ecobricking core concepts and techniques into a new kind of Ecobrick that holds true to our fundamental cradle-to-cradle principles.

Residents dump plastic collected from the beach onto a tarp where we turned it into ocean ecobricks.

Making The Ocean Ecobrick

The Ocean Ecobrick (OB) is essential two bottles packed with plastic, sealed end to end. By cutting a bottle’s top off, one creates a wide opening for packing large, small, awkward, sandy, and photodegradeds plastics of all types. The metalisized plastic from chip wrappers (aluminum oxide which reflects sunlight, and is the slowest plastic to photodegrade) is used to fill the tops and bottoms of the brick. Ecobrickers use a bamboo stick to pack the bottle as full and as solid as possible. Once the bottom is 90% complete, the top is silvered, then packed half full.

A line of silicone is made around the top of the main bottle, and then the top and bottom of the brick are screwed down. Excess silicone is wiped flat to seal the brick from the outside.
The concept is tremendously simple, and allows for the fast and efficient packing of plastic that wouldn’t be fit for a normal Ecobrick. As normal Ecobricks are often used for indoor furniture, the cleanliness of the plastic is crucial. Also, normal Ecobricks are sealed tightly. With dirty plastic, methane gas can form and accumulate inside a sealed brick, which can be dangerous. With the Ocean Ecobrick design, the imperfect silicone seal between the two cut bottles, allows gas to escape, avoiding the dangers of accumulation.

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Applications

Land
: Ocean Ecobicks can then be used for outdoor construction. They can be used with cob mortar or with silicone. The silver top and the bottoms, can be exposed to help reduce the thermal absorption of the structures walls.

Water
: Ocean Ecobricks can also be used for floating constructions. The silicone seal will hold the bottles together securely even under water. Even if water seeps into the brick, the concentration of less dense plastic ensure that the Ecobrick will continue to float indefinitely. We recommend that for floating applications that the OB’s be painted, this will ensure that they are not photodegrades through sun exposure. Once OB’s do show signs of degradation, they should be taken out of the construction and used for on-land building in which the bottle is 100% covered and protected from the sun.

Excess Plastic

Unlike traditional Ecobricks, OB’s generate waste in their making. Bottles must be cut, and there is not much use for the left over bottle tops. However, in communities like Santen, there is always a vibrant community of recyclers (Pemulung). PET and HDPE are the most sought after plastics. Left over bottle tops will gladly be collected by recyclers.

Limited Application

Ocean Ecobricks are more wasteful, fragile, and more likely to contain dirty plastic, and to generate methane than regular Ecobricks. They also, do not generate consumption consciousness like regular Ecobricks that are dedicated to transforming one’s own personal waste. Ocean Ecobricks are therefore ideal only in the circumstances of communities like Santen that are overloaded with plastic.

The Development Continues
The development and design of the Ocean Ecobrick is still underway.  We will return to Santen to explore building projects in several months.  Stay posted!

East Java Ecobrick Expedition

Blog post by Ecobrick team member Russell Maier, on the road in East Java


A forest of cengkeh (clove trees) in, Bayukidul Songgon, an colonial era Banyuwangi plantation.

These last few days, the Bali Ecobrick team and I are off on an expedition to Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia. We’ve been meeting community leaders and just regular folks who have no idea about plastic’s dangerous properties. This part of Indonesia reminds me of the Philippines– lush, green, rich culture– and no waste management at all. The folks we are meeting are thus super receptive. 

Gardening plastic with no where to go in Banyuwangi

 Yesterday at the ‘Makarya’ Festival (which aptly means “let’s do something!”), we did an open air workshop. The whole area filled up with over a hundred people.
An open air Ecobrick workshop at the Festival

People were super interested– they don’t know much about plastic and want to learn. My observation here as as in other places is that plastic pollution here is a direct consequence of simple ignorance. When I asked the crowd what plastic is made of, not one person could answer. When we asked how people disposed of their plastic, they answered with a chorus of “Bakar!” (Burn!)

Carly, Bebe, Ani and Russell demonstrate how to Ecobrick

I was fascinated to observe the crowd — teenagers, men, women– all in rapt attention as Ani talked about how burning plastic creates worse chemicals (dioxins) that are bad for us. I shared how plastic baby bottles are banned in Canada. We discussed how the sun breaks plastic into smaller and smaller toxic particles. This was all a revelation to them. 

Bagus, the youngest member of the Bali Ecobrick team, shows how it’s done.


When we started ecobricking the great big pile of plastic from the festival disappeared as young and old jumped in to learn how to Ecobrick. Several schools, government and women’s group had sent delegations. 


 Ecobricks will now be spreading in Banyuwangi! 🙂

Version 1.0 Construction Guide is Released!

An introduction to the principles and techniques of bottle building

After lots of hard work by our team of translators, cartoonist, writers and photocopiers we are excited to release the revamped Ecobrick Construction Guide.  Not only is it updated with new material, but it is now available in Bahasa Indonesia.

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Use Ecobricks to build your own awesome community green spaces.

The new guide introduces the various techniques for building with Ecobricks– from cob, to silicone, to cement.  The booklet also makes clear the main principles for holistic, earth friendly bottle building.  It’s designed to get you started in the right direction.

 ⬇ Construction Guide

Free Signup & Download

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Translation by Nurkinanti Laraskusuma.  New characters and cover by Fabianus Bayu.  Ecovillage Vision landscape by El Tiburon Grande.