No do NOT make eco bricks!

Here at SGL headquarters we are contacted time and time again about whether we could be a drop off location for eco bricks, our response is always NO NO NO.

Eco bricks have been around for years, they were first developed to deal with flexible single use plastics and plastic bottles in countries which did not have a council offering waste collection and recycling. The idea being it was better to collect the materials, preventing them from going in the rivers and sea and making something useful with them. Now Eco bricks have taken off in the UK after a post was seen a lot of times, and people have begun to ‘make’ them.

For those who don’t know, and I can’t imagine that there are many who read this blog who don’t know, an Eco brick is made by stuffing all the single use plastic, cigarette butts and other non organic rubbish from your household into a plastic bottle of any size. This may seem easy but it is difficult to do and entails the plastic being cut up or shredded and placed in the bottle. Helped with either a wooden spoon, a knitting needle or a stick. The filled bottle can then be used to make outdoor furniture, bus shelters and buildings. They should not be used to make items for internal use as I think they are quite inflammable.

Many people who have started making bricks had no idea that they were using so much single-use flexible plastic and also had no idea where the waste goes. This is a quote from the Facebook site, posted today:

“Just by spending the last 2-3 weeks keeping all plastic and starting my ecobrick has made me completely rethink the way I shop and I am changing as much as I can because ultimately we need to stop producing the huge amounts of plastic that we do. ”

At Sussex Green Living ‘Towers’ (;-) we have been aware of the plastic problem for a long time, and it is really hard to imagine that there are still households that don’t know about single-use plastic, landfill taxes, recycling and the 10 ‘R’s – refuse, reuse recycle, refresh, re-home, reduce,remake, rehash, responsibility,refill, etc – I could go on. We are not keen on Eco bricks for the reason that the bottles CAN be recycled and that it may give permission to consumers to continue to buy single-use plastic and plastic bottles.

But there are consumers who are just waking up to this problem and I think it is in our own interests to encourage the Eco brick phenomenon, even though it ultimately does not offer a solution to the increasing challenge. These new Eco warriors for want of a better term, are beginning to realise that the single use plastic is not environmentally acceptable and are starting to educate their children, their schools and they are emailing their MP’s, the supermarkets, and anyone else who has a hand in making this plastic. They are also finding out who deals with our waste, where our waste goes, and how it is dealt with, which is amazing and a very good thing. Their new voices are being added to ours and the more pressure we exert, the better.

Ultimately we have to start thinking about ALL of our waste as even the recycling bin must be reduced at some point. The markets are becoming saturated and in many cases (varies from County to County) our single-use plastics are being shipped to other countries to burn in incinerators, generating energy for their national grid – this is called toxic colonialism. The hard plastics (bottles, pots and trays) are usually shipped to countries like China, where they are recycled into new goods. All this shipping of our waste around the world is not good for the environment, council waste lorries will move the recycling a minimum of 6 times from point of collection (your house) to where it will be recycled, the ships use fossil fuel which when burnt releases horrendous quantities of carbon dioxide, which is causing climate change.

In April 2018 a summit was called to discuss reforms and regulations needed relating to packaging in the UK. This summit was between the government and other regulatory councils and committees on packaging (WRAP, INCPEN and ACP), with a list of 162 cross-sector organisations involved in production and recovery of packaging. It’s resulted in identifying some of the major challenges currently faced and recommendation for future action.

This is a huge step, albeit one in its infancy. However, there is no timeline.

For now, we need to continue to push for change. Reduce our consumerism. Write to corporations. Let them know we won’t stay quiet, and we’re not going to sit idly by while they take their sweet time figuring things out. Put the pressure on!

We can help you recycle some of your single-use plastics, which would otherwise go to landfill or incineration. We have run since 2012 a special recycling scheme, most of the waste resources are sent to a company called TerraCycle. This is the list of waste resources, the recycling of them raises money for the William Penn School and the Springboard Project. The public drop-off locations are:

  • William Penn Primary School, Coolham, Nr Billingshurst, RH13 8GR – accessible school hours, the bins are in the staff car park.
  • Quaker Meeting House, Worthing Road, Horsham, RH12 1SL – accessible 24/7, please use the green Sussex Green Living branded bin to the right of the cottage door.

Thank you for caring!

Pulborough born and bred resident Nicola Peel has been building around the world with ecobricks for the last decade,  where she helps communities  clear their neighbourhoods and build something useful. These photos are from some of her projects. For more info see Ecobricks in action.

Photos courtousy of Nicola Peel.

Written by Jill Shuker, Sussex Green Living volunteer and co-founder of the Horsham Repair Cafe.

“Greening Sussex by Sussex families”