Recycling in Nigeria
Most members of the poor communities of Nigeria struggle with disposing of their waste, inherently making them vulnerable to exposure to epidemic diseases, such as malaria, meningitis and other diseases. Accumulation of trash in sewages and gutters contaminates waters, creating a breeding pool for mosquitoes and vectors. This article will illuminate the accomplishments of two successful Nigerian female entrepreneurs, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola and Mariam Lawani, who executed practical tools to incentivize communities to adopt a sustainable livelihood and reward them for their efforts. Despite the environmental benefits of motivating others to recycle, the economic and social benefits are equally as remarkable. Here is some information about how recycling in Nigeria can help the poor.


Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola set up WeCyclers in 2012, a Lagos-based social enterprise fundamentally driven by fostering sustainability, physical and emotional well-being and socioeconomic empowerment for poor-income households. It provides impoverished households the opportunity of creating utility from their own recyclable waste. They collect recyclable waste from their homes and travel to Wecyclers collection point in Lagos, using low-cost cargo bikes called “wecycles.” The company then sorts and packages the waste before selling it to Nigerian manufacturers, who turn it into eco-friendly items.

Members of the local community are strongly incentivized to register as they get reward points for each kilogram of goods they recycle every week. Over time, they exchange the points for money or staple goods. The role of recycling in Nigeria in this context can help tackle poverty in Nigeria.

Unlike a conventional car, cargo bikes can travel through extremely tight roads. Consequently, Wecyclers can further expand its waste management infrastructure to the densely populated regions in Nigeria. Since Wecycler’s establishment, it has thrived significantly, allowing it to diversify its methods of transporting materials. It now uses vans, trucks, mobile technology and electric tricycles to deliver more recyclable waste to manufacturers.

This strategy of rewarding participants generates a ripple effect as family and friends of participants acknowledge the advantages of getting involved. They are vicariously reinforced to register to WeCyclers, as a way of reaping the benefits of participation. Adebiyi-Abiola states how the social enterprise “stopped actively reaching out to households to register people” because “people see their friends getting rewards for clearing up, and they want to do the same,” Copenhagenize Index reports. Here, she pertinently highlights how local community members observing others commit to a particular cause and receive bonuses motivates them to become part of the movement.

Greenhill Recycling

Rising poverty rates in Nigeria galvanized Nigerian entrepreneur Mariam Lawani to find a solution to these challenges. She founded Greenhill Recycling, a social enterprise that raises awareness of poverty and unemployment concentrated in Lagos in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The process Greenhill Recycling adopts is a “household collection system.” It picks up recyclable waste from the doorsteps of its subscribers, such as aluminum cans, water sachets, plastic bottles and empty cans. Those who take part receive redeemable green points that they can exchange for groceries, household equipment or even educational supplies for children. This demonstrates its altruistic nature in giving back to individuals from poor incomes.

Both organizations generate a platform for rural communities in Nigeria to be active agents and autonomous individuals in creating a pathway out of poverty. Recycling in Nigeria provides a beacon of hope for poor Nigerians to escape from the vicious cycle of poverty.

– Dami Kalejaiye
Photo: Flickr

Social Impact
Social impact businesses prioritize doing business in a way that actively helps a local or global cause. Over the past few decades, the social impact sector has grown considerably. A perfect example of such an organization is Humana, a Spanish-based second-hand vintage clothing store chain. It recycles used clothing in its shops and then uses the profits from the shops to support community cooperation projects in Spain, Africa, Asia and Central and South America. That is why this non-governmental organization is the perfect blend of fighting for environmental protection and participating in domestic and international humanitarian aid.

What is Humana?

In 1987, the international Foundation Humana People to People brought the Humana vintage store concept to Spain. There are 44 Humana stores in Spain and many more Humana branches throughout the world. The organization collects used clothing in collection bins in cities in Europe and North America where it is sorted and assessed in dedicated sorting centers and then sold in its vintage stores. Humana also sends some of the clothing to Belize and six countries in Africa to further sort, assess and then sell it. Humana works with municipal leaders for the collection and sorting process. By reusing and recycling unwanted clothing, Humana positively impacts the environment. In Spain alone in 2019, the organization collected almost 18 million tons of clothing and footwear.

Humana’s Social Impact

Humana stores may look like any average second-hand retail outlets, but they operate chiefly to make a significant social impact. In fact, Humana aligns with the United Nations 2030 Agenda and offers its support to countries that aim to achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  In Spain, Humana’s income per year is above 25 million euros, generated essentially by the sale of clothing. It distributes its profits to development cooperation projects, environment protection programs, social assistance projects, education and awareness projects and support for clothing collection and social farming in Spain and in Asia, Central and South America and Africa. Importantly, regardless of the social projects, the Humana stores in Belize and the six African countries that continue to sort and assess clothes offer the locals a sense of dignity by offering them the luxury of choice in the realm of fashion, at very affordable prices.

Humana People to People, the parent organization, operates across five continents and in 45 countries. It has supported more than 9.6 people and invested in more than 1,238 project units.

Humana’s Environmental Impact

From 2014 to 2016, Humana conducted a sustainability study of its collection and sorting facilities in Germany to assess their ecological impact. Although the facilities consumed 6,148 cubic meters of water for the entire process chain, they saved 75 million cubic meters of water needed to produce new clothes. The same applies to their CO2 emissions. The process chain generated 5,253 tonnes of CO2, but their activities prevented the production of more than 112,892 tonnes of CO2. Consequently, this eased the strain on the environment by a total of 107,639 tonnes of CO2.

On top of that, these Humana facilities attempted to use as much renewable energy as possible throughout their process chain, which makes a considerable difference. Since only 21,000 MWh of energy was used compared to the potential 602,000 MWh that would have been used on producing new clothing, the company saved approximately 581,000 MWh in 2016 alone in its German collection and sorting centers.

Finally, although the sustainability report only represented a fraction of the entire Humana franchise, it gives an idea of the Humana People to People business model scope in terms of benefitting people throughout the world and the planet itself.

– Alexandra Piat
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Trash in Ghana
According to the World Bank in 2016, Ghana’s labor force participation rate stood at 76.7%. However, of the 76.7.% of people employed in Ghana, only 26.8% made up wage or salary workers in the same year. In 2021, Ghana’s population stood at approximately 31 million people, but only 13,701 people participated in the labor force. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), in 2021, Ghana produced 1.1 million tons of plastic and just 5% is gathered for recycling. This sparks questions regarding where the remaining amount of trash ends up. For many impoverished people in Ghana, collecting trash is a means of survival. It can create a sustainable income to provide for Ghanaian families. Two organizations are working toward reducing trash in Ghana while providing support or employment.

The Urgency of Employment Opportunities

According to Trading Economics, Ghana noted an unemployment rate of 4.1% in 2019, rising by 0.4% by December 2020.

In 2019, the Ghana Living Standards Survey 7 reported that approximately 2.4 million people, 15 years and older, which represents 21.4% of the employed population, face underemployment. Furthermore, in 2019, the average monthly income of employed Ghanaians stood at GH₵972, which equated to about $128.41 as of May 2022.

For people living in poverty in Ghana, employment is crucial. Collecting trash in Ghana serves as a job opportunity that can allow families to become more financially stable. Two organizations in Ghana offer either income or support to those interested in helping to create a more sustainable version of Ghana, giving them opportunities to rise out of poverty.

Global Alliance of Waste Pickers

In 2005, in the City of São Leopoldo, Brazil, Lucía Fernández, the global wastepicker program coordinator at Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), “had the opportunity to help gather a few leaders of waste pickers’ organizations from four Latin American countries.” This led to the eventual establishment of a network, the Global Alliance of Wastepickers, in 2009. After many years, the organization has spread globally and now serves more than 31 countries, including Ghana.

Its mission includes:

  • Fighting for “the social and economic inclusion of the waste picker population.”
  • Supporting more sustainable methods of reducing waste, such as reusing, recycling and composting.
  • “Sharing knowledge, experience and technology” and advocating for improved laws or policies that affect the global waste picker population.

Currently, three waste picker groups in Ghana are part of the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers. For many Ghanaians, collecting trash is a source of income, which provides them with stable jobs and the ability to provide for their families.

Trashy Bags Africa

In 2007, Stuart Gold, a British entrepreneur visited Accra, Ghana. He witnessed the streets overflowing with plastic sachet bags. These sachet bags allow Ghanaians to drink clean water but leave the roads littered with plastic. Gold saw an opportunity to clean up the trash in Ghana while providing jobs. This gave birth to Trashy Bags Africa.

The Trashy Bags Africa website explains that “Each month nearly 200,000 plastic sachets are collected by a network of commercial enterprises, each obtaining an income from their efforts, now giving value to waste.” The sachet bags are then recycled and turned into various items such as reusable bags, pencil pouches and laptop covers.

Since Trashy Bags Africa began in 2007, it has gathered 15 million plastic sachet bags. Without the help of many Ghanaians, this would have been an impossible feat. Trashy Bags Africa has several goals, such as creating employment through sachet collections, washing of sachets and stitching the sachets into new items.

Trashy Bags Africa even offers to pay Ghanaians to turn in used sachet bags for recycling. A CNN article says that, in 2010, Ghanaians could receive 20 cents for each kilogram of water sachets. As of 2010, Trashy Bags Africa had 60 employees and 100 sachet collectors. “For lots of people collecting sachets is their whole livelihood,” said Gold to CNN.

Thanks to the work of several organizations, impoverished Ghanaian waste pickers are able to make a living, gain recognition and receive support in conducting their activities.

– Kaley Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Upcycled Water Bottles
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that, since January 3, 2020, there have been more than 1.6 million official cases of COVID-19 in Thailand. While the country has around 70 million people, the data demonstrate a significant rate of infection. As of October 4, 2021, approximately 55 million of Thailand’s citizens have had vaccines administered to them. Thankfully, this is not the only good news to come out of the country’s battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. The textile company Thai Taffeta has recently come up with a sustainable means of fighting off the virus, involving upcycled water bottles.

Reduce: How Thai Taffeta PPE Came to Be

During the height of the pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) in Thailand was alarmingly scarce. This shortage increased medical staff’s risk of contracting COVID-19 while also exposing them to other hazardous diseases and potential injuries. At the same time, as the Southeast Asian country with the second-largest economy, Thailand’s consumerism creates a lot of plastic waste. When the general rate of infection of COVID-19 in Thailand grew and protection gear started dwindling in hospitals, a textile company based in Bangkok introduced a new, life-saving technology. As of September 3, 2021, Thai Taffeta has been using the nation’s overabundance of plastic waste — mostly upcycled water bottles — as an advantage, subsequently saving lives and helping the environment.

Reuse: How Thai Taffeta Makes its PPE

According to Thai Taffeta, it takes about 18 upcycled water bottles to make one PPE suit. Thus far, Thai Taffeta has collected about 18 million plastic bottles to create personal protective equipment. The process is relatively simple and involves reducing the typical resources necessary for making protective gear and breaking down the plastic waste into malleable filaments that then get upcycled. Donated fibers are combined with the upcycled material. The product is the PPE necessary for doctors and medical staff to better equip themselves with while facing the threat of infection.

Thai Taffeta’s executive vice president, Supoj Chaiwilal, said that the fabrics are “made of 100% recycled PET yarns to produce Level 3 PPE coveralls.” This particular level of protection ensures that the suits are water-resistant and can even keep out blood and viruses from the external environment. Manufacturers dye some of the gear a reddish-orange color for a select group of the PPE’s recipients: Buddhist monks.

Recycle: Accessibility of PPE

While Buddhist monks have access to this textile innovation, needing it to conduct cremation processes safely, it is also available to high-risk patients. Though Thailand’s response to the pandemic was relatively strong, it was not without weaknesses. Had the government not responded to the economic crisis with relief measures, the poverty rate in Thailand would have increased to an estimated 7.4% in the span of one year. However, the 6.2% of Thailand’s population living under the poverty line, who are more susceptible to infection and fiscal devastation, could certainly benefit from a maintained social protection program implemented by the country’s government. Therefore, the introduction of sustainable personal protective equipment in Thailand is critical for health safety in the fight against COVID-19. PPE to more individuals better allows for a deceased spread from continuing to permeate and affect the lives of low-income families.

Looking Forward

Thai Taffeta’s website boasts, “All for one[,] the journey of sustainability.” Indeed, the upcycled plastic waste personal protective equipment in Thailand is an innovation many people marvel at. Operating in a cyclically economic mode, the broken down plastic serves to benefit the environment and reduce the number of resources needed to create new goods while also combatting the rate of infection. The slogan also touches on the immense value of a unified fight against the virus, pressing for eradicating disparate circumstances while simultaneously urging the upper classes to be considerate in their consumption and contribute funding toward these suits.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Recycling Efforts in ScotlandAs of March 2021, Scotland has provided £70 million, or $97,466,250 USD, to the new Recycling Improvement Fund. This will improve recycling efforts in Scotland and the world. Recycling can shield off climate change, help the environment and alleviate poverty, so funding will make a notable difference.

How Scotland Will Use the Funds

Across the country, local authorities are receiving encouragement to create ways to make recycling possible for their communities. Examples include advocating for waste prevention and reuse, fixing damaged reusables, establishing a routine for collecting, accessing the proper recycling means for items like electronics and using low-carbon equipment.

Roseanna Cunningham is Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. She is fighting for each household’s right to make their own choices in the environment. Cunningham claims the fund will ensure that communities will have equal access to recycling if they choose to do so. Local authorities have recently voiced their opinions on ways to improve recycling infrastructure and ways to involve the communities. This is where the NGO Zero Waste Scotland comes in. This organization manages their applications, assesses their ideas and makes contracts. If an idea undergoes improvement, the fund will go towards supplying local authorities’ plans.

Motivation for Recycling Efforts in Scotland

Cunningham has stated that it is in Scotland’s best interests for society to focus on a circular economy founded on green-based job opportunities. In other words, the country will reuse waste as long as possible to preserve resources, but there should also be more local jobs with missions to preserve the environment. The country hopes to become a leading example to the world in time for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021. Many other leaders from Zero Waste Scotland have also voiced their excitement about the positive impact the funds will have on the economy. Even private sectors are becoming involved.

Scotland has the goal of increasing the recycling rate to 70% by 2025. In 2018, carbon emissions related to waste dropped by around 11%. In 2019, 1.1 million tonnes did not enter the landfill when 45% of households recycled. Also that year, local figures did something to improve recycling, resulting in a 17% to 68% rate increase. Scotland is ensuring the Recycling Improvement Fund will up these percentages.

How Recycling Efforts in Scotland Alleviate Poverty

Quality of life would improve for those without equal access to recycling because of green-based employment and education. Further, communities achieve social development when they learned about preserving their resources for as long as possible. One day, the earth’s resources will run out depending on the consumption rate. The prolonging of the use of the things that people use daily, like plastic, metal and paper, can keep poverty at bay.

As of March 2021, Scotland’s unemployment rate was 4.4%, slightly less than last year’s 4.7%. More recycling efforts could lead to more employment as well, through green-based jobsMore than windmills and turbines, types of green-based jobs consist of teachers, caretakers, bike couriers, solar energy installers, transportation services and overall services that benefit communities. Further, preventing contamination of rivers and land from trash recyclables solves a number of problems when it comes to drinking water, soil for crops, carbon emission and water pollution. This also addresses environmental hazards.

To involve the public in recycling, there are door-to-door recycling pickups, which offer money in exchange for recyclables. In conclusion, Scotland’s new program will prove to rely on the citizens to make the ultimate difference. As protecting the environment becomes a priority, so does poverty.

Selena Soto
Photo: Flickr


Zero Waste Project in TurkeySustainable development in low-to-middle-income countries can significantly reduce poverty by increasing jobs, boosting the economy and providing better access to services. Major developments in infrastructure and policies have greatly improved poverty rates in Turkey. The relative poverty rate has been reduced from 23.4% in 2007 to 20.1% in 2017. One step in sustainable development that will result in environmental and economic benefits is the Zero Waste project in Turkey.

The Zero Waste Project

The Zero Waste project was established in Turkey by the country’s first lady, Emine Erdoğan, in 2017. The project added $2.3 billion to the Turkish economy due to a large amount of material and food saved from the reduction of waste. The goals of the Zero Waste project in Turkey are to reduce waste by recycling byproducts of agriculture activities and repurposing hazardous waste. It also works to encourage recycling among citizens by implementing separate recycling bins in cities.

In addition, the government assists farmers under the project to implement zero waste practices. As a result, this maximizes their profits and boosts the economy. Another goal of the project is to bring the recycling rate to 35% in the next two years. This will result in employment opportunities for 100,000 people in recycling and an annual income of $2.7 billion. Under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, the project aims to expand across the entire country by 2023.


Education is fundamental in encouraging communities to participate in recycling to improve living conditions. A Zero Waste education program was implemented in Turkey schools to educate children on the importance of waste reduction. More than 25,000 public buildings implemented the zero-waste system in 2019.

In addition to reducing waste from food and material, an initiative was created to decrease waste in the ocean and expand the recycling of wastewater. The Zero Waste Blue program launched in 2019 within the Zero Waste Project in Turkey. The program mobilizes the public to keep the water clean by discouraging waste in the seas.

Additional Successes

In 2021, first lady Emine Ergoğan was presented with the first Sustainable Development Goals Action Award of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Turkey. The Zero Waste project received the award because it achieved the goal of “Responsible Consumption and Production.” This focuses on success in sustainable development through programs to improve waste reduction and recycling. “Responsible Consumption and Production” is one of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This goal aims to reduce waste generation significantly by 2030. The Zero Waste project in Turkey continues to produce environmental changes that will result in economic growth in the next nine years.

Recycled material boosts the economy by requiring less money to produce products and creates new job opportunities. Reduction of food waste also improves food insecurity and scarcity. With continued action, poverty rates in Turkey can continue to decrease.

– Simone Riggins
Photo: Flickr

Gjenge MakersGjenge Makers is a Nairobi-based startup company that offers a sustainable, practical and affordable solution to combat poverty in Kenya. The company sells affordable alternative building materials. Its products, which include an assortment of bricks with different functionalities and styles, are forged from recycled plastic and sand. These plastic bricks can help reduce poverty and plastic waste in Africa.

The Plastics Waste Crisis in Kenya

Garbage is quickly accumulating all around the globe and Africa is bearing the brunt of rising waste levels. Governments in resource-rich regions typically have the capacity to pare the trash down into a flaky substance, slashing the amount of physical space it occupies. This process is time-consuming and expensive. However, several countries such as Kenya instead address the issue by implementing a series of plastic bans.

Plastic ban policies typically have socioeconomic and environmental consequences. Throughout the state are large piles of waste that have built up as a result of excessive plastic use, such as the infamous Dandora dump in Nairobi. “Plastic traders” scour these junkyards for limited resources like bottles and certain compounds that can be exchanged for money. Many at the lower end of the disparity are also disproportionately affected by policing under these laws as plastic bag distribution, manufacturing and usage are subject to a fine and/or prison sentence. Additionally, some businesses will generally relocate to other states to avoid such strict laws, damaging economic interests and employment numbers.

Kenya had been taking a slow-moving approach in curtailing the plastics crisis when Gjenge Makers founder, Nzambi Matee, decided to take matters into her own hands. The entrepreneur experimented with mixing recyclables with sand in her mother’s backyard and eventually composed a formula to build a brick five to seven times stronger than concrete. Her products are now a core economic ingredient toward upturning poverty and improving infrastructure at the community level.

The Housing Crisis in Kenya

Kenya is currently undergoing a severe housing deficit, with homelessness numbers rapidly escalating under the pandemic. The estimated housing deficit stood at two million in 2012 but factors such as limited resources are further distending the issue. With limited support and a lack of housing, many families are struggling to survive.

How Gjenge Makers Helps

Gjenge Makers address both the plastic waste and housing crisis through its plastic brick solution. In accordance with its “Build Alternatively, Build Affordably” model, it seeks to contribute a key product that could empower individual communities by giving them the resource needed to rise out of poverty. Matee has declared eradicating poverty a personal goal of hers and her new innovation can help build more shelters to combat the housing crisis. The company also seeks to make its products accessible to essential learning institutions such as schools.

Gjenge Makers currently receives plastic through a multipronged approach. It collects from factories and recyclers seeking to discard their trash, whether at a price or for free. It also uses a mobile application that incentivizes rewards and allows homeowners to notify Gjenge Makers when they have available plastic. The formula to build the bricks requires a particular type of plastic compound, often labeled on the products themselves.

Gjenge Makers is a champion of eco-friendly, economic empowerment in a crisis that is widespread throughout the continent of Africa. Though the startup is currently based in Nairobi, it seeks to eventually expand and support other African states as well. So far, Gjenge Makers recycled 20 tons of plastic and created a total of 112 jobs.

Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Playgrounds Made of Recycled Materials in IndiaOne of the lesser-known consequences of India’s rapid urbanization has been the lack of available playgrounds and recreational spaces for India’s youth. A recent study found that 90% of India’s youth never get to use a playground. This disproportionately affects children living in poverty. To improve the mental, physical and social health of India’s most impoverished urban youth, playgrounds, recreational spaces and sports need to be more accessible, especially in India’s urban slums. One method of providing such an outlet to Indian children is through the construction of playgrounds of recycled materials.

Indian Youth Face Disadvantages

With so few spaces to play, children resort to playing in dangerous places like on the side of the road, in construction areas or near railways. In addition to having exposure to more dangerous situations while playing, the lack of recreation space for India’s urban youth has other disadvantages as well. Daily physical activity has been proven beneficial to the mental and physical health of children by decreasing depression, reducing anxiety and strengthening the immune system.

Practicing sports and engaging in recreation have positive social effects for girls in particular. Girls who play sports and keep up with physical activity are less likely to experience an unwanted pregnancy, smoke cigarettes or consume drugs.

Anthill Creations

Anthill Creations is a nonprofit organization (NGO) in Bangalore, India, working to help solve the problem of the absence of recreation spaces for India’s youth through designing and constructing playgrounds out of recycled materials.

India’s landfills have an abundance of industrial materials such as tires, concrete pipes and scrap wood. While watching children play with scrap materials that litter the streets, the founder of Anthill Creations, Pooja Rai, came up with the idea to build playgrounds out of the same recycled materials and litter that one can find in and around India’s slums and landfills.

Anthill Creations relies on the input, trust and energy of the communities where the NGO works in order to design each playground specifically for that community. When undertaking a construction project, the team at Anthill Creations spends time with the local children for days prior to beginning construction; the goal is to both gain the trust of the local children and to understand what they would desire in their new playground.

The organization’s volunteers construct the playgrounds, oftentimes even attracting volunteer labor from the very communities in which the organization is working. Rai says this helps foster a sense of “ownership and responsibility” of and for the playgrounds among the local volunteers.

The Positive Impact

Anthill Creations coordinates with other NGOs, private corporations and local governments in order to maximize its positive impact on India’s urban youth. As a result of Anthill Creations and its projects for government schools, the nonprofit has been able to help reduce absenteeism; children are more excited to come to school when they have a new playground to play on. Anthill Creations also worked with the United Nations in order to construct playgrounds for Rohingya refugees from nearby Myanmar.

Anthill Creations projects are a sustainable way to provide low-cost recreational spaces and playgrounds to India’s children, while also repurposing India’s abundant scrap in a way that can benefit the country’s most impoverished communities.

– Willy Carlsen
Photo: Flickr

The Future of Eco Building Materials
Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible. Additionally, it is resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. Green building is the future for more developed countries and for impoverished nations. Re-using already existing materials for structural foundations greatly benefits impoverished regions. Several of these eco-building materials consist of discarded plastics, trash and compost.

The need for more environmental-friendly building materials arose from atmospheric pollution and the lack of energy conservation. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is what jumpstarted this movement to create eco-building materials. Moreover, this resulted in the creation of several organizations.

Organizations Fighting for Greener Building Materials

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) strives to transform the way people design, build and operate buildings and communities. In addition, it enables an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. This is one of the primary organizations that began to actually shed light on the urgency of the issue. Since then, numerous companies have emerged to offer newer and greener alternatives to current building materials.

Additionally, Rammed Earth Works is another company devoted to providing eco-building materials. The housing concept incorporates exposed earth walls. Housing infrastructures recognize rammed earth as a low carbon releasing process that offers an environmentally safer and more sustainable option. Furthermore, this particular process involves the layering of sediment and waste runoff to structure an exposed wall of rock that creates somewhat of a retro aesthetic. This method is more environmentally friendly and is accessible to people in areas of extreme poverty.

Recent Developments

Many people imagine fluffy pink fiberglass when considering insulation. However, a much safer and less carbon-emitting alternative is sheep wool. Yet, the actual aggregational makeup of fiberglass is harmful to the touch. Other greener insulating alternatives offer an easier installation process. In addition, it generally consists of 70% recycled materials. Sheep wool is a much more accessible product to countries currently fighting immense poverty.

One of the more recent developments in the invention of a building brick comprised entirely of recycled plastics. This new brick is not only a greener alternative to concrete blocks but is also reportedly seven times stronger and more durable. Nzambi Matee creates the bricks by breaking down plastics that can no longer be recycled or repurposed. Matee’s factory is in Kenya and has already recycled 20 tons of plastics since 2017.

Developing countries are on the path to environmental and economic success with the discovery and creation of new, greener building technologies. Having access to these materials allows these countries to evolve structurally and economically while preventing pollution.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

Ecobricks Turning Waste Into InfrastructureAs the population grows, environmentally-friendly building materials are becoming more and more necessary. Ecobricks are just that. Ecobricks are reusable building bricks that are made by packing clean, non-recyclables (including single-use plastics and styrofoam, which can be toxic to the environment) into a plastic bottle. The bottles are then used to build things such as furniture, walls and buildings. Ecobricks are a mechanism of turning waste into infrastructure.

Ideally, a long-term solution to protect the environment would require a massive decrease in global production and the use of single-use plastic. Ecobricks do not offer a solution to this problem; however, they are an efficient short-term solution for plastics that already exist or are currently in production. In addition to upcycling plastic, the process of making Ecobricks is far better for the environment than the brick and cinder block. This makes putting industries in developing countries a cheaper option for building material.

Ecobricks In Latin America

Communities around the world are turning to Ecobricks as an efficient and responsible option for building infrastructure affordably. Hug it Forward is an organization working in Latin America that focuses its attention on access to education and how modern consumer culture generates billions of tons of inorganic waste on a yearly basis.

The organization uses Ecobricks as a solution to both by constructing bottle classrooms with the materials. These classrooms provide safe and comfortable learning environments at a lower price than if they were to be strictly brick and mortar structures, and it is more environmentally-friendly. Hug it Forward believes that working with communities to implement these classrooms is an investment in the community’s resilience and self-empowerment.

Ecobricks in Africa

Ecobricks are building infrastructure in Africa. Greyton, a township in South Africa, is the country’s first transition initiative in an effort to address the issues many townships face as a result of apartheid and social inequalities. These issues include a lack of affordable housing and effective waste management systems. The goal of this transition initiative is to turn Greyton into an eco-village through projects like creating community gardens and banning plastic bags.

Ecobricks are a huge part of Greyton’s efforts and are being used to build schools, furniture and other necessities. At the same time, they reduce the number of non-recyclables that would make their way to nearby landfills. The township has even started a Trash to Treasure Festival, which is a music festival that increases environmental awareness. At this festival, people make, exchange and even submit Ecobricks to win prizes. After each festival, the Ecobricks are added to Greyton’s infrastructure projects, such as adding an Ecobrick classroom to the town.


Ecobricks are building resources that are affordable and better for the environment. They provide attainable infrastructure for the communities that need it most. These bricks are an effective short-term solution to the abundant non-recyclables littering the planet. They are an avenue of development for communities around the world. Ecobricks are a sustainable solution that provides resources by turning waste into infrastructure.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Wikimedia Commons