Due to the tremendous amount of trash and little money and high unemployment, it was proposed to the Haitian people that they try to build a wall between the school and church made from recycled plastic bottles which are filled with sand, i.e., “eco-bricks”. The idea was well received and two walls were constructed in the most basic way—lying bottles horizontal in rows, held together with mortar, one on top of the other. Adults and children took part in collecting and constructing.
Next, it was decided to move forward with a small 10’x 10’ building which was built with a strong foundation, concrete columns and beams reinforced with rebar. The bottles act as filler (insulation) in the walls and then the outside was covered with cement stucco.
The people liked the idea but did not like seeing the bottles inside. It was not financially feasible, though, to stucco both sides of the wall. So we began to see if this idea was being used in other areas of the world.
In South America, similar but much larger buildings are being built but using chicken wire to hold and stabilize the bottles.
A lot of planning went into planning the construction of 12’ x 24’ buildings. In October 2017, five members of our church and community assisted in the building effort along with dozens of Haitians.
The first building is nearly finished and the second one has begun.
Bottle buildings are an efficient and environmentally-conscious way to build. Reusing plastic waste cleans the community and encourages the the community to work together to collect the thousands of bottles necessary to build. Teachers can use this effort to talk to their students about reducing, reusing, repurposing and recycling in an effort to motivate them to turn trash into something useful.
Overall, we felt the pilot project to be successful, but it has many areas where it can be perfected. Primarily, we need skilled laborers (such as masons and brick layers) to join the next group in order to teach the Haitians how to build correctly in order to ensure sound construction.
We do not want the magic to end with the completion of the first building. Come and see! Share your skills and talents with others who are eager and willing to learn.
Tout est Grâce
The need is still great. Tax-deductible donations for Haiti can be mailed to St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church, 309 W. Cook St., Portage, WI 53901. Please note "Haiti" clearly on the check.