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How One Refugee Is Building Sustainable Homes Out Of Plastic Waste

“We are creating an industry around plastic houses.”

We all know plastic bottles are horrible for the environment whether they’re clogging up our landfills, littering our oceans, or letting out potentially toxic chemicals into our water sources. Amidst our extremely wasteful demand for plastic, millions of refugees around the world lack the basic resources to secure a roof over their heads. Luckily, one man is working to chip away at both of these problems by constructing sturdy: comfortable homes out of used plastic bottles.

Tateh Lehbib Breica, an engineer who lives at a refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria, has been building plastic-bottle homes for his neighbors over the past year. Typically, refugees in the area live in dwellings made of adobe mud brick that are vulnerable to heavy rain and strong winds. Breica built his first plastic-bottle home for his grandmother as an experiment, filling the bottles with sand and constructing the walls in an aerodynamic circle shape. After the structure proved to withstand the harsh desert climate, Breica received funding from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to build more.

Together, Breica and the UNHCR have built 25 new homes for refugees in five nearby camps. Each home uses approximately 6,000 plastic bottles sourced from local camps and junkyards, Middle East Eye reports. Once filled with sand and stacked into the home’s basic structure, builders seal the bottle walls with a cement and limestone mixture. A roof is then added consisting of two layers of recycled plastic and cement for proper airflow. In addition to being sturdy, the circular shape also keeps the home cool by preventing light rays from directly entering the space.

Beyond the obvious benefits of building durable, sustainable homes for refugees, there’s an added bonus: jobs.

“It takes four people to pick up the bottles, four others to fill them, and four masons to lift it,” Breica told Middle East Eye. “Drivers are also required to transport sand and bottles. We are creating an industry around plastic houses.”

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