How to Make an Ecobrick
Your First Ecobrick is the Most Important
Ecobrick making is simple and straightforward. Ecobricks can be made by the young, the old and everyone in between — no machines or special skills are 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 are to be avoided as they will compromise the quality of furniture modules, constructions and the social spread of ecobricks. During trainings and projects our GEA trainers grade ecobricks strictly and do not accept poor quality ecobricks. We’ve thus put this 10 step guide together to help you get going on your ecobrick journey.
1. Get your plastic ready
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, using clean plastic is thus important. Dirty plastic can lead to 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.
- Availability: 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.
- Volume: 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.
- 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 biodegradables will not poison the biosphere– 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 building walls.
6. Pack the bottle tight, mix 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.
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
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. Log your Ecobrick
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.
9. Label Your Ecobrick
Add a Label or Write on the Ecobrick
As you complete your ecobrick, make sure it 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
- Serial Number (generated by the GoBrik App)
- Final weight
10. Add a vision and store your ecobrick
As you complete your ecobrick, make sure your it is not packed to overflowing. Plastic should not be pushing up against the lid, otherwise the lid may be damaged over time.
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? For example:
“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). It’s 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 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.
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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. Packing it into an ecobrick secures it from poisoning the biosphere. This is important and valuable!