Milstein Modules

Build simple, easy and awesome modular ecobrick furniture.

Ecobrick Milstein Modules are the easiest, fastest, and perhaps the most fun of all ecobrick applications.

Its easy to make versatile, durable and tremendously practical indoor furniture that can be put to use in many ways.  Milstein Modules can be used on their own as seating or combined like LEGO to create horizontal surfaces.  People use them for tables, beds, benches and even stages!  Milstein modules can be made by anyone, anywhere using simple materials and methods.  Using either our silicone or tube-banding methods ecobricks can be put to use right away in applications that embody regenerative principles.

Modules in use

Its easy to make versatile, durable and super practical indoor furniture that can be used in all sorts of ways.

Milstein Modules can be used individually as seats or combined like honeycomb LEGO to create horizontal surfaces like tables, beds, benches and more (for vertical LEGO see Dieleman Modules).  Milstein modules are easy to make, all you need is 7 to 19 ecobricks of the same size, some silicone or old inner-tubes.  Modules are a short-term circular application, meaning that they will last 3-5 years and then can be disassembled and the ecobricks put to use again.  When you have a large collection of milstein and dieleman modules you’re able to create Ecobrick Open Spaces— interactive community spaces that can be built, un-built, and built again during conferences and gatherings to serve the needs of the moment.

It is important to use these modules as indoor furniture. Ecobricks should never be exposed to the sun. Ultra violet (UV) rays will gradually photo-degrade the plastic bottle. After only two or three years, the brittle bottle will crack and burst, releasing all our hard packed plastic! Not good. Keeping plastic indoors and out of the sun will prevent this problem.

Variations

There are two main types of ecobrick modules, and two variations of milstein modules.

Triangle milsteins are the most basic ecobrick modules. Made with three ecobricks in the center, they are typically composed of 12 ecobricks.  They can serve as stools or be connected to hexagon modules to build vertically. Larger triangle modules can be made with 24 ecobricks.

Hexagon milstein modules are made with 19 Ecobricks, these modules make the best stools and are the most versatile.  Hexagon modules can combine them like honey-comb.  Use them to build tables, stages, walls and more.

Dieleman modules are made with 16 ecobricks and enable vertical and horizontal building.  See the feature page on Dieleman Modules.

Replicable

We’ve designed ecobrick milstein modules to be replicable by anyone anywhere.

The practicality and making of ecobrick modules goes beyond geography, age and gender. This means we use methods that are not dependent on capital and machines.  Instead we use materials that are available everywhere and methods that are powered by human collaboration.

Silicone as a connection method was chosen silicone sealant is not petroleum based and is almost universally available.  Simple and inexpensive silicone caulking can be purchased in hardware stores in villages and cities around the planet.

The tire-banding method is even more in line with our principles, but also has several downside.  Tire banding recycles use motorcycle inner-tubes and requires no new material at all-- instead recycling widely and freely available used motorcycle inner tubes.   However, tire banding requires manual strength and motor tubes are hard to find in some countries.

Cradle to Cradle

Milstein module making techniques are circular.

We strive that all GEA methods are replicable, non-capital, non-petroleum, collaboration powered, and cradle-to-cradle.   this goes for Milstein modules too!  We’re careful to use methods that enable our ecobricks to be easily and safely at the end or our creation.  This way they can be put to use again.  Silicone and tire bands can both be cut to release the ecobricks without any damage to the PET bottle.  Silicone methods with minimal sun exposure can last for 3-5 years.  After this time, the silicone begins to let go of the ecobricks.  The modules can either be repaired, or disassembled.  At this point, the ecobricks can be cleaned and re-applied into modules-- or they can be used in long-term earth and ecobrick applications.

Furthermore, module making is so simple that anyone can do it--no specialists needed!  It means that the making process is not hierarchical and readily involves men, women, the young, old, rich poort and everyone in between to assist in creative collaboration.

Learn more about Ecobrick Principles

Silicone Method
Ecobrick Module Making Movie Beta

The original and most enduring making milstein modules is using silicone sealant.

To start you will need a well ventilated space, a perfectly flat surface, a caulking gun, a tube of silicone, a knife and of course, your ecobricks.  Hopefully, you’ve followed GEA making and storage directions, so that you can easily pick a selection of colored ecobricks to make a cool pattern.  There are many different types of silicone-- our experience is that the cheapest all-purpose not-special-brand at your local hard ware store works best.  If you have to choose a color, go for clear silicone.  Make sure you’re working outside or with a fan, because as silicone cures it releases vinegar gas (acetic acid).  It’s not good for you or your helpers if you breathe too much of this.  Ideally, have a partner assist:  one person holds and places the ecobricks, the other operates the silicone gun.

Lay bottles on a perfectly flat surface. Ensure all bottles are the same size. Arrange a color pattern with caps and bottle bottoms. Silicone junction points. Press together. Let dry 25 hours.

Use silicone sealand sparingly to bond bottles

To Start…

 

Arrange you ecobricks in the desired module pattern with the bottom down.  When you’re pattern is set, remove the cap of the center ecobrick(s) (this will help guide you as the module grows).  Insert the silicone tube into your caulking gun and se your knife to cut the top off your silicone tube and the nozzle.  Be sure to ecobrick the plastic cuttings.  One partner removes the center ecobrick from the test arrangement and holds it for the other to silicone.  Lay a thick a bead of silicone down the side of the ecobrick.  The bead should be high, not squished or flat.  Place the bottle down in a designated space beside your test arrangement.  Grab the bottle that goes next to the center one, and press it gently against your center bottle.  And your off!

Continuing…

Grab the next bottle.  This time add two beads of silicone down the sides of the bottle (where the bottles will touch the two other).  Gently press this bottle against the first two.  ideally your high silicone beads compress nicely, maximizing the contact surface.  Continue you adding ecobricks in this way, from the center outwards.  Be sure as you press new bottles into the pattern that you do not disturb the bonds of the earlier bottles.  Try to avoid repressing bottles together after they’ve been set.  Undisturbed silicone joints are strongest.   Be careful as you work to not lean over the pattern-- the vinegar fumes from the silicone are strongest here.  Always work from around the outside.

Finishing up

Once all your bottles are all laid, its time to… wait!  Do not move or even touch your module for the next two hours.  After two hours, you can safely put the cap back on the center bottle and if necessarily gently slide the modules (but its best not to!).  After 24 hours you can move the module.  After 36 hours (i.e. when you can no longer small the silicone drying smell) your module is good to sit and even stand on!

Maintenance and Use

If you have used bottles of identical brand, the hexagon module top will fit perfectly into a triangular module bottom.  Make more modules!  Experiment with module size and back-to-back modules.  Make cool stuff!

As in all ecobrick applications, be sure to keep your modules out of the direct sunlight.   The sun will fade colors and degrade the silicone and plastic.  All in all, you can expect an indoor module to last 3-5 years.  After this time, the silicone bonds will begin to fail.  Modules, can be easily repaired by removing loose bottles, clearing off their old silicone, cleaning their surface and re-siliconing.

Next Life

If you have used bottles of identical brand, the hexagon module top will fit perfectly into the triangular module bottom.

Combine modules vertically and horizontally

When your module comes to the end of its life, use a sharp knife to cut the bottles out of the pattern..  Be sure not to cut the PET of the bottle as you do so-- often pulling the bottles apart will suffice.  You can also use vinegar or  isopropyl alcohol to weaken and dissolve the bonds.  Clear the old silicone from the old bottles.  Your ecobricks can now be reused to make modules or applied in earth and ecobrick constructions.

You can safely dispose of silicone sealant in your garden, ideally in a sunny place.  Silicone is not plastic, nor is it petroleum based.  It degrades harmless back into its inorganic components of amorphous silica, carbon dioxide, and water vapor (SO, CO2, H2O).

Tire Banding Method

Ecobrick tire banding is a second simple technique for joining ecobricks together to build milstein modules using 100% re-used materials.

With luck, you have a mechanics shop near you that works with motor bikes.  If so, you’re in luck!  By using the old inner tubes from motor cycles we can also connect our ecobricks together.  Unfortunately, bicycle and car tires are too small and too big for the straightforward application of this method.  But you’re welcome to try-- it all depends on the diameter of your ecobricks and that of the innertube.

Early uses of inner tubes to make modules saw the tubes cut vertically to make long binding elastics.  In the tire banding technique, we cut the tubes horizontally to make many small elastic bands.   Like all ecobrick applications, the making process works best collaboratively.  You’ll need a partner, some ecobricks and a wooded stick-- your ecobrick packing stick will do the trick!

As you cut the tube into bands, angle your cuts slightly so that the bottom of the band is slightly smaller than the top.  This will help you maximize the number of bands you can get out of the tube, while minimize waste.  Of course… every bit of excess cutting, you can put into an ecobrick!  This makes this a zero-waste making method.

We’ve found that motor cycle tires are ideal for binding 600ml bottles.  Use only identical bottled ecobricks for one module.  Connect bottle #1 to bottle No.2 using bands at the top and bottom.  Now connect bottle No.2 to bottle No. 3 in the same way.  Push all three bottles together and connect bottle No.1 to bottle No. 3.  The ecobricks should be tightly bonded.  They should not be able to slide back and forth or wiggle.  If your bonds are too loose (or too tight!), go back to cutting your elastics.  By adjust the thickness of your elastic you can adjust the tightness of your tube bonds.

Alright… that was the easy part!  Now, connect ecobrick No. 4 to ecobrick No.3.   Connect No. 4 to No.2…. Continue to add on ecobricks in this way.  It won’t be easy, as the bonds will start to get tight and overlap.  Have one partner hold the connected ecobricks and another adding the new ecobrick.  Use your wooden stricks to press down the elastics  as you go.

Continue adding ecobricks until you’ve complete your triangle or hexagon module.  Use your sticks to level out the elastics on the side so that they make a neat, level line around the outside.  And, that’s it!  Your module is good to go!

Maintenance

If you have used bottles of identical brand, the hexagon module top will fit perfectly into a triangular module bottom.  Make more modules!  Experiment with module size and back-to-back modules.  Make cool stuff!

With the tire banded modules it is critical to keep them out of the sun.   Inner tubes are made from butyl rubber from petrochemicals.  Inner tubes are highly succeptible to photodegradation and will weaken within weeks of UV exposure.  Butyl rubber degrades by breaking down into small and smaller pieces similar to micro-plastics.  These do not biodegrade and instead accumulate in the environment.  Butyl rubber is seldom recycled, so it is best to pack broken pieces and cuttings into an ecobrick.

When tube elastics do break, modules can be easily repaired by re-tubing.

Next Life

If you have used bottles of identical brand, the hexagon module top will fit perfectly into the triangular module bottom.

Combine modules vertically and horizontally

When your module comes to the end of its life (usally when your tube bands are all starting to break) use a sharp knife to cut the bottles out of the pattern.  Be sure not to cut the PET of the bottle as you do so– often pulling the bottles apart will suffice.  Be sure to ecobrick the scrap rubber.

Your ecobricks can now be reused to make modules or applied in earth and ecobrick constructions.

 

Silicone vs Tires

Let’s take a look at how the two methods of joining both rank in terms of ecobrick regenerative principles.

Silicone sealant:

Locally Available: 9/10 (you can buy silicone almost everywhere)
Globally Consistent:  9/10  (it is the same everywhere)
Non-Industrial source:  0/10  (it is manufactured)
Non-Capital:  5/10  (inexpensive)
Cradle-to-cradle (reusable):  0/10
Non-Toxic:   8/10
Aesthetic: 9/10
Waste in application:  5/10 (left over tube)
 

Rubber tire rings:

Locally Available: 10/10 (Tubes are everywhere!)
Globally Consistent:  10/10  Every
Non-Industrial source:  10/10 (upcycled)
Non-Capital:  10/10  (free, abundant)
Cradle-to-cradle (reusable):  9/10  (rings are reusable)
Non-Toxic:   9/10
Aesthetic:  6/10
Waste in application:  9.5/10  (and left over clippings can be ecobricked)
History

Banague Coteng on the first ever ecobrick Milstein Module on June 14, 2014 in Monkayan, Philippines.

Milstein Modules were conceived and developed by Russell Maier, one the principals of the GEA during his time in the Northern Philippines.

Requiring furniture for his home, but having no means to procure it, Russell did the next best thing-- he began to experiment with the abundance of glass bottles that had accumulated in the village where he lived.  Through trial and error, Bianca Silva and Russell, discovered that silicone was ideal for attaching both glass bottles.  Together they created tables, chairs, lamps and much more.  Russell exhibited his modular glass bottle furniture for the first time in the BenCab gallery in April 2012 with the help of Alvin Berto.  As the ecobrick movement took off, Russell realized that silicone worked just as well to attach plastic bottles together as it did glass.

The first ecobrick module was made by Russell Maier and Banague Coteng in Monkayan, 2014.  Milstein modules helped deepen Russell’s presiding of the the early Mt. Province Ecobrick movement towards mandalic principles.  When Russell moved to Indonesia to continue the spread of ecobricks, Milstein modules were introduced as the primary application of ecobricks.  With this simple output-goal the Indonesian ecobrick movement has spread exponentially.  Hundreds of thousands of milstein modules have been made in Indonesia.

The tube banding module making technique was also invented by Russell during a visit to a remote island of the remote community of Kampung Laut in Central Java. The community school welcomed Russell and Ani Himawati to show them the ecobricks they had been making to solve their plastic problem.  However, it became clear that the community was hard pressed to put their ecobricks to use because of the cost and difficulty to source silicone.   The next day Russelll sat down with Nur Hidaya and his Kebonmanis team in Cilacap and came up with the major breakthrough of tube banding.

Milstein modules are named after a close friend and mentor of Russell, Dan Milstein.  Dan, a meditation and Reiki teacher based in California, became an unlikely yet crucial supporter for Russell as the early Asian movement began.  Dan had developed meditation and prayer techniques during decades working some of the roughest and darkest prisons in the world.  Russell supported and encouraged Russell’s parallel work in remote villages and some of the poorest and most oppressed on Earth.  Dan encouraged Russell through trying times, convinced that Russell was on to something by working with what was commonly viewed as “waste”, “useless” or “trash”.  Russell and Dan built up a strong friendship, although they never met.  Dan passed away in 2015.

Read more about the history of Milstein Modules.

Circular Design

Ecobricks are a deep solution to plastic. Ecobricks and all the applications on this site are a fundamentally ‘Cradle-to-Cradle’.

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Regenerative

Ecobricking is a what we call a regenerative technology. Rather than "sustaining" the status quo, we're careful that everything we do re-greens rather than greys.

Our Principles

Why Ecobrick?

Ecobricks keep plastic & C02 out of the biosphere.  Ecobricks raise ecological consciousness.  And more!

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