How to Make an Ecobrick
Your First Ecobrick is the Most Important
Ecobrick making is simple, but there are important guidelines. Start right— this is a long-term lifestyle habit that you, your household and community are staring. If you’re working at a school, it is important that your ecobricking sets the example for your students. Make sure that students are guided and graded strictly for their first Ecobricks. Your first ecobrick is the most important because it will lead to many, many more. We’ve put this detailed 10 step guide together to help you get going great on your ecobrick journey.
1. Get your plastic ready
Save and segregate your non-biodegradeable waste. Ecobricks are best made with clean and dry plastic. Afterall, you may be using the ecobricks to build furniture for your home and we want it to look good. Also, dirty plastic will lead to microbiological growth and the formation of methane inside the bottle (for a solution for dirty plastic see the Ocean Ecobrick). This can lead to bloated ecobricks and in rare cases, caps popping off.
2. Choose your bottle
- Prevalence: Be sure to choose bottles that are in abundance in your community. Its ideal to have everyone in your community ecobricking with the exact same brand and bottle, so you’ll want to make sure there is a good supply.
- Volume: Large 1.5L bottles will take alot of plastic…. but also take a long time to make! For workshops, small 600ml bottles are best– new ecobrickers can finish one ecobrick easily. Large bottles are best for advanced ecobrickers.
- Project: For building modules with Ecobricks, you need bottles that are exactly the same size and shape. For outdoor building projects, exact sameness is not so important, so long as the volume is consistent (i.e. all 600ml bottles). Depending on the size of construction, you will need different size bottles. For example, small bottles make good walls, and large bottles make good benches. See our Construction Guide for more on the different ways Ecobricks are applied.
3. Get your stick ready
All you need to Ecobrick is a stick– but having the right stick will make a big difference! Bamboo and wood make the best sticks. The size of the stick depends on the type of bottle you go with. You want a stickwith a diameter roughly one third the width of a standard bottle opening– so about 6mm. You want your stick to be about twice the height of your bottle, with a slightly rounded tip. Avoid sharp cornered sticks as they can rupture the bottle and you can get splinters and blisters on your hand.
Once you have your first hand made, locally made stick, you’re set! You can then give it to others to copy and replicate. That’s how our GEA Trainers do their workshops.
4. No glass, metal or biodegradeables
Metal, paper, cardboard, glass and biodegradables will not poison the biosphere– so there is no need to put them in a bottle. Use the space of your ecobrick to pack away the otherwise dangerous plastics. Be especially careful not to pack sharp metal or glass into an ecobrick– as you pack it down it will rupture the sides and pose a danger for handling.
- Paper and cardboard can be safely burnt.
- Biodegradeables can be composted.
- Metal and glass can be recycled.
5. Start by adding a bottom color
Use a colored soft plastic to give the brick bottom a color. Pack it in with your stick to fill the first one or two centimeters (you might want to use a few plastics of the same color). Cellophane of bags work great. By giving your ecobrick bottom a color, you open up colorful design possibilities when later you use your ecobricks to build walls or modules. Often companies, organizations or schools will ask their members to make ecobricks with their community colors.
6. Pack the bottle tight, mix plastics as you go
Now its time to pack away! Use your stick to push down the plastic around the inside of the bottle– move in a circle pushing down along the sides. To maximize the density, its good to mix soft, then hard plastic. Cut up big plastics into smaller pieces. The smaller the pieces, the denser you’ll get!
BONUS: Once you get to the middle of your ecobrick, pack 2-3cms of lighter colored plastic. By forming a center white ring of plastic you will later have a clear location to label your Ecobrick with a permanent black marker.
7. Weigh your Ecobrick to ensure quality
Keep packing your ecobrick until it is all the way full. Around the world, we’ve discovered that a good minimum density is 3g/ml. This means that a 600ml bottle will have a minimum weight of 200 grams and a 1500ml bottle will have a minimum weight of 500 grams.
Minimum density goals are a good way to motivate Ecobrickers and ensure quality ecobricks. Ecobricks that are too soft cannot be used for modules. Ecobricks that are too squishy can compromise horizontal cob construction. By densely packing of the bottle, we maximize the volume of the bottle for trapping and keeping plastic out of the biosphere. A good solid ecobrick is something you can be proud of and will inspire others.
8. Log your Ecobrick
Use a log sheet or the GoBrik app to log each ecobrick as it comes in. We’ve made a point chart in our Vision Ecobrick Guide to help teachers motivate students. There you can also find a log sheet that can be photocopied. Record data such as the maker of the ecobrick, the weight, the bottle volume, the quality, etc. This way you can track your community’s ecobricking progress. Paper and spreadsheets work great– and so does GoBrik, the free web based app that we’ve worked hard to develop for just this purpose.
Simply visit www.GoBrik.com with the web browser on your phone, sign in with Facebook or email, create an account, then begin to log your ecobricks. GoBrik will do the rest– compiling stats for you and your community. Coming soon: Create and manage projects, trade and exchange ecobricks, and more.
9. Seal, label and store your Ecobrick
Make sure your ecobrick is not packed to overflowing. Plastic should not be pushing up against the lid, otherwise the lid may be damaged over time. Once sealed, label your Ecobrick with a paper label or use a black permanent marker. Depending on your community project, the following data is helpful to record:
- Your name
- Date and year
- The intended Community Project
- ID number (generated by the Ecobrick App)
- Final weight
Many ecobrickers write a prayer or a vision on the bottle in a permanent marker. Your ecobrick will last a long time. Why not let your grandkids know that you were thinking of them?
“I envision a world where plastic is used seldom and wisely and where we live in harmony with the cycles of nature”
Once complete, you will need to store your ecobricks until you have enough for you project. Store ecobricks indoors, out of the sun. Stack horizontally, with the ends pointed outward (this way you can see the colors you have to work with). Its good to have the ecobricks raised slightly above the floor– rats have been known to chew away at bottles!
Once you have enough Ecobricks you’re ready to build. There are five main techniques for building with bottles and ecobricks. The easiest, fastest, and perhaps the funnest Ecobrick application, is to make Milstein modules for horizontal building and Dieleman modules for vertical building. With modules you can create benches, table, chairs, structures and more.
Perhaps the best use for Ecobricks is building community green spaces. Using local earth and ecobricks you and your community can build beautiful spaces that enrich the local environment.
Ecobricks keep plastic and C02 out of the biosphere. Ecobricks raise plastic and ecological consciousness. And more! You'll be amazed at the power of this low-technology. See the full list.
Plastic is Poison
Through sun and water exposure, plastic breaks down into environmental toxins. We need to be careful!