Can plastic waste be the answer to low-cost housing?

Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year.This translates to about a million bags every minute across the globe, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth. And the number is rising. “A plastic bag can kill numerous animals because they take so long to disintegrate. Scientists have identified 200 areas declared as ‘dead zones’ where no life organisms can now grow…” reports Ocean Crusaders.

The sustainable use of resources, the reduction and reuse of waste has become one of the most crucial topics worldwide. Waste from urban areas, domestic or trade, varies considerably from local authority to local authority depending on the socio-economic level of the community. “95% of urban waste is disposed of on landfill sites of which there are about 1200 in South Africa”, according to the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWA). While a number of industrial sectors have made significant progress in implementing recycling systems to reduce waste, sadly in South Africa “there are no effective incentives to encourage all waste producers to adopt cleaner production processes and minimise waste generation”.

Environmental art movements have for many years enhanced the way we observe and interact with nature. Some noteworthy movements include the story of stuff, humans in nature, Oliver Barnett Photography, Our Common Future and the Centre for Civil Society at UKZN headed by Professor Patrick Bond has made exceptional strides in their contribution to environmental research. With the use of recycled waste, natural or renewable resources, these art installations educate the public about environmental problems but often serve a dual purpose by raising awareness on social issues in a particular area. One such project was recently exhibited by German artist Markus Heinsdorff and showcased at one of Cape Town’s hotspots, Green Point Urban Park.

3ocean-dome “I call it ocean dome” said Heinsdorff.  Ocean dome is an art object made of 50 gabions (metal baskets) in the form of a round tower and filled with plastic bottles.is located at the Biodiversity Showcase Garden Environmental Education Centre, adjacent to Green Point Park. The waste/resource, collected from the Atlantic beaches around Cape Town, consisted of 10 000 bottles, fishing nets, fishing lines and other plastic scraps.

 

The idea of building with waste highlights two important lessons – first, the creative and sustainable up-cycling of waste as an extremely low-cost construction material when new building forms are created. Secondly, “transforming the halo of poverty into a visitor magnet and architectural attraction (with e. g. guided tours, etc) through the creative use of waste in art project” adds Heinsdorff.

 

Markus Heinsdorff is an internationally recognised artist whose installations explore the relationship between Nature and space in different contexts of the world. Using design, architecture and photography, Markus documents the process of developing artistic projects with locally available materials, while exploring possibilities for up-cycling and empowering communities. In 2013, he was the recipient of a Recycling Design Award.

Article originally on FutureCapeTown.com