Colombians solve housing shortage with recycled plastic

Saturday, June 11, 2016

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BOGOTA, Colombia (Xinhua) — A group of Colombians has devised an initiative that is currently getting recognised globally, through transforming the serious problem of pollution by using plastic as a solution to the thousands of people without houses.

The Bogota-based company, Conceptos Plasticos, is a finalist in The Venture competition organised by the company, Chivas Regal, that mainly awards entrepreneurship which has high social impact on a global scale. The company seeks to reverse the damage that plastic causes to the planet and use it to benefit those most in need.

The initiative was created based on Colombian musician Fernando Llanos’s need to build his own house in a difficult-to-access area in the centre of Colombia.

Subsequently, this idea became architect Oscar Mendez’ degree thesis which, after several years of investigation, materialised into developing a brick made of all types of processed, discarded plastic.

The modular system works like Lego and is adaptable to all types of terrain and any climate.

The project’s managers label it as a triple-impact endeavour which will benefit a large number of people if it is taken into consideration in international fields.

"It has a social impact because in Latin America the housing shortage is terrible. Forty per cent of people living in Africa, Asia and Latin America do not have a house. One out of every seven people in the world lives in extreme poverty and for that reason, we want to attack this segment by offering homes," Mendez, the company’s manager and partner, told Xinhua.

He also detailed the environmental and economic importance of using this type of waste to build modular homes.

"Only in Bogota 6,300 tonnes of waste are thrown into the landfill site, out of which approximately 12 per cent, equating to 750 tonnes, are plastic. Only 100 tonnes of this plastic is recycled therefore, we are making 100 homes out of the plastic in Dona Juana (the city’s landfill site). We are also giving value to a type of plastic that has no market," added Mendez.

The housing model with social interests comprises 40 square metres divided into two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, dining room and kitchen, and can be put together in only five days by four people without any previous building experience.

The houses are put together without using any type of adhesive. This makes them portable houses that can be disassembled easily in order to transport and once again, assemble them.

Although the company has developed several housing projects in the Andean country, its flagship project has been building 42 houses in a space of 1,000 square metres to benefit the displaced families from the Guapi population in the Colombian Pacific.

The project was built by 15 people over 28 days and currently further housing projects are being looked into in order to solve the housing deficit in remote regions in the departments of Choco, Guajira and San Andres.

The company’s proposal meets all the requirements needed to take home the the competition’s first prize, which is considered the most important in the entrepreneurial sector at the global level. This year, 26 proposals are being considered for the prize.

If Conceptos Plasticos wins, they plan to use the US$1 million prize money to develop new housing projects and reinforce recycling culture in the Colombian society.

When discussing the cost of making the houses, Mendez said they are a lot more economic than a house built from traditional materials.

"We don’t charge per square metre built, but by kilogramme (of plastic) processed. However, to give an idea, one 40-square metre house costs approximately US$130 per square metre built," added Mendez.

A prize from Colombia’s Housing Ministry in 2010 and an acknowledgement from the United Nations in Dubai for best practice are among the company’s acknowledgements.

In 2014, Conceptos Plasticos won at the Locomotive of Innovation organised by Colombia’s Colciencias, which gives awards to the country’s main entrepreneurships.

Currently, the company generates 50 direct jobs in Colombia’s capital city and it hopes that with the growth of its initiative, it will be able to offer 2,000 jobs all over the South American country — which is another reason behind why the Conceptos Plasticos project should be the most voted for in the competition.




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