Eco club does it brick by brick

THE Merrifield Primary School Eco Club have been hard at work perfecting and popularising the environmentally friendly art of eco bricking in East London.

OR THE ENVIRONMENT: Merrifield Primary School Eco Club members with head teacher Chaylene Bachar, front centrefront. The bottles, stuffed with compressed plastic waste, are the eco-bricks made by the club members which will be used for the environmental awareness sculpture to be built on the school grounds Picture: MADELEINE CHAPUT

Eco-bricks are constructed out of recycled two-litre plastic bottles and all sorts of bits of plastics, chip packets and food wrappers.The litter is stuffed inside the bottles in a compact manner to create hardy building bricks.

The club was approached by African Angels founder Lou Billet last year. They were asked to join the African Angels Independent School in making and collecting as many eco-bricks as possible.

“Last year our main theme was ocean pollution and the effects of single-use plastics on the ocean’s ecosystems and we thought this was a great was of reducing the amount of plastic waste that reaches our oceans,” Merrifield Eco Club head teacher Chaylene Bachar said.

The school focused on the global issue, running various local projects, including beach clean-ups and challenging the pupils and their families to give up four single-use plastics. Eco-bricking, however, soon became a go-to trend.

“The eco-brick project has by far been our most popular project as the Eco Club. People are seeing how much plastic they use and it inspires others to become involved and start eco-bricking too.”

Apart from reducing the amount of trash that reaches the oceans, eco-bricks are also highly insulating and water- and fire-proof.

The compressed plastic waste does not disintegrate and provides hardy support, similar to normal building bricks, but at almost no cost.

During the course of last year, the Merrifield Eco Club, along with various members’ families, managed to collect 110 eco-bricks to be used to build a wall for the Chintsa East Community Learning Centre.

The centre, which is a container-based book exchange and computer hub located in the middle of the Chintsa East location, opened in October last year.

As a joint initiative between African Angels, Friends of Chintsa, the Chintsa East community, Express Petroleum and Great Kei Municipality, the centre aims to provide free internet access to residents, as well as digital literacy training, online maths practice and mentoring, assisting with accessing matric re-writes, and more.

“We’re hoping to find an organisation we can team up with to continue eco-bricking and make it an on-going project within the school, and eventually throughout the city,” Bachar said.

Merrifield has commissioned Grade 11 art pupils Alex Murray to design and create a sculpture out of the eco-bricks collected at Merrifield this year.

The structure will be built completely out of eco bricks on the school grounds in the hopes of creating awareness about the negative environmental effects of single-use plastics and other waste on the oceans.

Merrifield School is a collection point for eco-bricks and encourages all to keep making them and bring them to the school.

“There’s a huge opportunity for collaboration here and I hope we can get everyone on board in an effort to reduce the amount of trash in the world,” Bachar said.

If anyone has any suggestions or knows of any organisations or projects making use of eco-bricks, please contact Bachar at cbachar@mpsc.co.za.

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