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Guatemalan Schools Built from Bottles, Not Bricks Plastic Bottle School's A Cheap Alternative in Guatemala

Plastic bottles line the streets of many Guatemalan towns, so a nonprofit is turning the litter into building materials for schoolhouses.

The cost of building new classrooms and schools shouldn't prohibit students in the developing world from accessing a quality education, but new construction, even using inexpensive materials like cinder block, can run up a five-digit bill in construction costs. Now, Hug It Forward, a nonprofit in Guatemala, has figured out how to build new schools on a shoestring budget by turning the plastic bottles that litter the countryside's villages into raw construction materials.


A plastic school might sound like it's better suited for Barbies than for people, but the technology—developed by the Guatemalan nonprofit Pura Vida—is actually quite clever and allows for schools to be built for less than $10,000. The plastic bottles are stuffed with trash, tucked between supportive chicken wire, and coated in layers of concrete to form walls between the framing. The bottles make up the insulation, while more structurally sound materials like wood posts are used for the framing.

One added bonus of the nonprofit's work is educating local children about the environment by helping them gather the bottles that end up in their schools' walls. "They create the school that in turn creates opportunities for them," Hug It Forward staff write on the group's website. A two-classroom schoolhouse built by Hug it Forward in Granados used up 5,000 bottles, which otherwise would've kicked around the town's street or ended up in a trash heap. Hug it Forward has already built 12 schools around the country, with four more in the works.

Photo courtesy of Hug it Forward

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