How to Make an Ecobrick
Ecobricks can be made by the young, the old and everyone in between — no machines, special skills or experts required! However, there are important guidelines to follow to ensure the quality and usability of your ecobricks.
Be sure to start ecobricking right— this is a long-term life habit that you, your household and community are beginning. Likewise, your ecobricks will set the example for everyone around you. Sub-standard ecobricks will compromise the quality of furniture modules, constructions and the social spread of ecobricks while, well-done ecobricks can be put to good, safe use and will secure plastic for centuries. We’ve put this 10 step guide together to help you on your journey of making great ecobricks.
1. Save, Segregate, Clean & Dry Plastics
Ecobricks are made with clean and dry plastic. Start by segregating your ecobrickable plastic from all other materials. If there is any food, oil or dirt on your plastic, be sure to wash then dry. Dirty plastic inside an ecobrick will lead to microbiological growth and methane forming inside your ecobrick (for a solution for dirty plastic see the Ocean Ecobrick). Since ecobricks are often used to make home furniture you also want to avoid unsightly ecobricks, bloated bottles and in rare cases, caps popping off.
2. Choose your bottle
When you start ecobricking, it’s good to choose one kind of bottle that is in abundance in your community and stick to it. When selecting the bottle that you will use, consider three factors: the bottle’s availability, the volume, and the project you will use the ecobrick for.
The last thing you want to have to do is buy drinks to have a bottle for your ecobricking! Soon many people will be ecobricking in your community and it is ideal to have everyone using the same brand and bottle. Be sure to choose a bottle that everyone can easily come by.
Choose the bottle volume you want to go with. GEA Trainers teach ecobricking with bottles under 600ml. Large 1500ml bottles will take a lot of plastic…. but also take a long time to make! Small volume bottles allow new ecobrickers to finish their first ecobrick fast, and learn from their mistakes. Large bottles are best for advanced ecobrickers.
3. Your 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 information on the different ways ecobricks are applied.
3. Get your stick ready
Ecobrickers like to call their packing stick, their magic wand. It makes the plastic disappear! Having the right stick will make a big difference to your ecobricking. Bamboo and wood make the best sticks. The size of the stick depends on the type of bottle you go with. You want a stick with 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’ve got a stick with a good size and shape, you’re set! You can then give it to others to copy and replicate. That’s how our GEA Trainers do their workshops– more magic– one stick turns in to many!
4. No glass, metal or biodegradables
What you don’t put in your ecobrick is just as important as what you do. Remember that we are putting plastic inside and ecobrick because it is toxic to the environment. Metal, paper, cardboard, glass and organic material will not degarde into environmental toxins– so there is no need to put them into a bottle. Be especially careful not to pack sharp metal or glass into an ecobrick– they can rupture the sides and pose a danger for handling. There are other solutions for these materials:
- Paper and cardboard can be safely burnt.
- Biodegradables can be composted.
- Metal and glass can be recycled.
5. Start by adding a bottom color
The first piece of plastic you put in the bottle will give it a bottom color for building. Choose a soft plastic with a solid color, then push it down to the bottom of your ecobrick. Pack it in with your stick to fill the first 1-2cms of the bottle (you might want to use a few plastics of the same color). Cellophane bags work great. Often schools or companies will ask their ecobrickers to make ecobricks with their community colors. By giving your ecobrick bottom a color, you open up colorful design possibilities for making modules or earth and ecobrick walls.
6. Pack the bottle tight, mixing plastics as you go
Now it’s 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, it’s good to mix soft, then hard plastic. Cut up big plastics into smaller pieces. The smaller the pieces, the denser you’ll get! If it’s your first ecobrick, weigh occasionally to make sure you are on track for your target minimum weight.
Did you push too hard? In rare cases, when using a sharp stick, a thin bottle or too much lateral force, an ecobrick will rupture. Don’t panic! But, it’s best to start again. Ruptured bottles will not last and can leak plastics. Cut the bottle open, remove the plastic and start again. Cut bottles can be recycled.
7. Weigh your Ecobrick to ensure quality
Around the world, we’ve discovered that a good minimum density is 0.33 g/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 essential to ensure quality ecobricks. Quality ecobricks ensure good constructions, make the most of the volume and energize the social spread of ecobricks.
Ecobricks that are too soft cannot be used for modules. Ecobricks that are too soft can compromise structural constructions. By densely packing of the bottle, we make the most of the bottle to trap plastic.
Finally, a good solid ecobrick is something you can be proud! When others see and hold it, they understand immediately the transformation of loose plastic to building block that has occurred! Good quality ecobricks and ecobrick constructions are fundamentally inspiring.
8. Cap, Log and Record
As you complete your ecobrick, make sure it is not packed to overflowing. There should be about 1-2cm between the cap and the plastic inside. The cap (HDPE) is made of a different type of plastic than the bottle (PET) and is the weakest part of the ecobrick. Plastic should not be pushing up against the lid, otherwise the pressure will inevitably crack the lid over the years.
Once sealed be sure to record your ecobrick. Recoding how much plastic you are securing is an essential part of plastic transition. This helps us to calculate our plastic transition ratio and when everyone in your class, school, company, is adding up their plastic, it let’s us share the regenerative impact of our community.
As your ecobrick is recorded, be sure to write its essential information on the ecobrick. In particular…
- Your name
- Date and year
- The intended Community Project
- Serial Number (generated by the GoBrik App)
- Final weight
By tracking and recording ecobricks, you put energy into the continuation of ecobricking and encouraging best practices. Tracking ecobricks is key to preparing for building projects and to the long-term continuation of ecobricking. 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.
We’ve worked hard to craft a universal web app for you to use to log and connect your ecobricks with those in your community. We’ve also made a point chart and sample log form in our Vision Ecobrick Guide that can be photocopied.
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.
As you log and record your ecobricks key details either on paper or on the GoBrik app, record the key data on the ecobrick also. This will help people to recognize that the ecobrick has been logged, indicate the quality and age of the ecobrick, and point to its history. Be sure to use a permanent means of recording your ecobrick. Your ecobrick will endure for years, decades, and centuries. The more information we can leave future generations, the richer our gift. Recording the GoBrik generated serial number onto the ecobrick also enables the valuation of the ecobrick, the full tracking of its historical data, and enables a verification of its quality and historical data.
Avoid using paper labels, tape, or stickers to record the data. These methods will last for several years at best then fall off.
After much experimentation, we have found that enamel paint, nail polish and permanent makers work best (in that order).
- Enamel paint, modelling paint, or oil paint usually comes in a metal can or glass jar. Use a paint brush to carefully and clearly enscribe the ecobrick’s data. The paint bonds to the plastic and is almost impossible to remove. Use contrasting colors like white and black to make your writting stand out.
- Nail polish is a form of oil paint and also permanently enscribes the ecobrick. However, often the nail polish brush makes it hard to write legibly. Also the smell of the polish drying is strong.
- Some permanent markers will mark ecobricks well. However, there are many disadvantages to this method. Most markers are made of non-recyclableable and non-ecobrickable materials. Not all markers are permanent on plastic. The use of markers encourages others to use markers. Even the best markers are not as permanent as oil paint.
Some ecobrickers are innovating with other methods– such as etching onto the ecobrick or inserting a written plastic tag into the bottle itself.
Extra: Add a visionMany 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? For example: “I envision a world where plastic is used seldom and wisely and where we live in harmony with the cycles of nature”
Extra: Add a vision
10. Store your ecobrick
Once complete, you will need to store your ecobricks until you have enough for you project. Store ecobricks indoors, out of the sun. If possible protect with a cloth or tarp from accumulating dust and dirt (PET attracts dust and chemicals and is hard to remove). Stack horizontally, with the ends pointed outward. This enables you to organize your ecobricks by colour and brand– which later facilitates project planning and making. It’s good to have the ecobricks raised slightly above the floor — rats have been known to chew away at bottles! Ideally, ecobricks are stored off of the ground (on a floor or raised on wood) and fully protected from the sun and the elements. Ecobricks are best stacked horizontally with their bottom pointed outwards.
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 most fun Ecobrick application, is to make Milstein modules for horizontal building and Dieleman Lego 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 & C02 out of the biosphere. Ecobricks raise ecological consciousness. And more!
Plastic Can Become Poison
Through sun and water exposure, plastic breaks down into environmental toxins and microplastics. Packing it into an ecobrick secures it from poisoning the biosphere.
Find a Trainer
Our trainer network extends through the UK, Philippines, Indonesia, the USA and more. Book an Ecobrick Starter Workshop!