Colombian “LEGOLAND” For the Homeless?

July 21, 2016

Do you remember building houses out of Lego when you were a child and thinking how cool it would be to live in a home made of plastic? Well, thanks to 34-year-old entrepreneur Oscar Mendez, now you can! Oscar’s genius idea is to convert plastic waste into housing in a bid to tackle both environmental concerns AND the homeless.

Who is Oscar? And why did he come up with this idea?

Beginning his career as an architect and with 10 years’ experience in manufacturing/plastic processing, Oscar became discontent with the current methods being used. This got him thinking about how he could manufacture plastic waste in a way that would lead to the creation of “a construction system with dignity.”

And so began Oscar’s company, “Conceptos Plasticos”, (or “Plastic Concepts” to the non-Spanish speaker) whose aim was to convert discarded plastic into new, long-lasting creations. The biggest project this company has worked on to this day is the plastic housing concept. A great example of this project in action is in the South of the Colombian Pacific, where settlers were driven from their homes due to armed conflict and looked to resettle in urban areas; their only belongings being what they could carry in their arms. Plastic Concepts designs plastic blocks that can be used to build shelters for a population of 400, infrastructure included, in just the space of two weeks!

Oscar’s idea has recently come into limelight thanks to household brand Unilever, who runs an annual competition to discover the best entrepreneurs around the globe who are doing an amazing job at tackling some of the biggest threats we face on our planet today. Oscar and his plastic-fantastic housing were one of only 7 winners from the 2015-2016 competition!

How can making a house out of plastic help the homeless and fight plastic waste?

Plastic is used across the globe in many disposable items such shopping bags, drink bottles, etc. Designed to be durable, plastic is a non-biodegradable which can make soil less fertile, choke sea life and if eaten by animals, cause them to fall ill. For a detailed example of how plastic is affecting the planet, check out this article by Katt Gu.

Another global issue is homelessness with estimates suggesting that across the world, there are 100 million people who do not have anywhere to live. Homelessness has a profound effect on people’s lives causing health deterioration and feelings of isolation.

This innovation tackles both of these problems by making a positive use out of harmful, discarded plastic while at the same time giving less-fortunate people the opportunity to be housed!

This seems really cool, right? Here’s the whole process:

  1. An industrial process called extrusion is used in which mixtures of different plastics and rubber are used to make quality construction materials.
  2. These materials are used to build cheap, durable housing which can also be broken down and rebuilt if required.
  3. It takes only five days for a team of four people to assemble a 40 square meter house!

Wondering what you can do now to reduce plastic waste?

Green Education Foundation lists some great ways we can reduce how much plastic we use. Here are Top 5 Tips to get you started:

  1. Take a reusable bag with you to the shops next time you go shopping instead of getting disposable bags.
  2. Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop.
  3. Stop chewing gum which is made out of plastic.
  4. Make juice squeezed from fresh fruit or just eat it instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. It’s better for the environment and healthier too!
  5. Use razors with disposable blades as opposed to disposable plastic razors.

So there we have it, a brief insight into the world of plastic homes that are designed to tackle environmental issues and social housing disparity. Keep your eyes peeled for more of these homes popping up soon and check out Oscar’s site for updates. Finally, remember there are things you can start doing today to reduce plastic consumption without having to live in a plastic house.

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