Our business transforms plastic waste into alternative building materials for temporary and permanent homes, shelters, classrooms, community halls and other buildings. This not only prevents plastic pollution and diverts waste from landfills and communities, but also creates much-needed infrastructure and economic opportunities around recycled plastic. The assembly of the bricks and building materials is simple and requires little training: four people can build a house for a family in five days with no construction experience.
John wesley hyatt
Before it became a trend – and what a positive trend it was – recycling already existed. Who didn’t inherit some of their younger siblings’ clothes or bequeath some of their elders’ garments? Of course, in reality it’s all about reuse first, and recycling only in the case that those pieces have required alterations. But the idea is the same: not wasting and taking advantage of what we already have is a behavior that we all once had very internalized.
In a global view, it is impossible to talk about recycling without mentioning the first municipal garbage dump in Western history, which is due to the Greeks, who not only invented yogurt (joke, this food appeared first in Mesopotamia), but also dictated local laws, back in 500 BC, to dispose of waste at least one mile (1.6 km) outside the city walls. No doubt the Athenians thought twice before throwing anything in the garbage.
During the Victorian era, the first professional recyclers appeared in England, who were in charge of collecting the dust and ashes generated by domestic fires. It is estimated that in the 1850s the average amount of coal burned per household in London reached 11 tons per year. The great expansion of the city generated a great demand for coal ash by industry to generate bricks. In addition, the food and agricultural industry used these wastes as fertilizer for crops.
Of course, technology will come to our aid. We can replace plastic with other materials (cardboard, fabric, wood) or make plastics that dispose of safely in the environment (compostable bioplastics), or use returnable packaging, as well as bring our own containers to be refilled at the store. There are many possibilities. But we could also use some hands-on experience.
Yogurts, cream cheese, all kinds of dairy products (of which there was not as much variety of outlandish flavors as there is now) were sold in glass bottles and jars. Butter was packaged in simple cardboard boxes (as some brands still do). In general, the function now performed by plastic or brick (which also contains plastic) was then done by glass containers, most of which were strictly returnable and even refillable on the spot, a variety of strong papers, cloth sachets, wooden boxes and of course tin cans and boxes, which if not returnable were usually collectible.
History of plastics summary
Faced with a material with so many advantages, the challenge for the industry lies in proper waste management. Although plastic tends to be demonized, contrary to popular belief there are some materials that are considered more sustainable and yet are not.
An example of this can be found in glass, metal, wood and paper, which require a lot of energy to recycle. In this context, the manufacture and management of plastic waste is considered key to protecting the environment and moving towards a more sustainable future.