Empty plastic water bottles make the ideal insulated roof tiles

'A'Gua water bottles by Donald Thomson are custom-designed plastic water bottles that turn into roofing tiles when empty.

Even though plastic bottles are fully recyclable, they mostly end up in landfills. To solve this problem, Donald Thomson launched 'A'Gua Costa Rica, a new 100 per cent zero-waste beverage container that becomes a permanent, high-quality solution to the housing needs of low-income families.

Thomson's company, Center for Regenerative Design and Collaboration, makes the rectangular 'A'Gua bottles that, when empty, flatten into concrete-and-waste-paper-filled tiles. The resulting tile has a much greater value than the empty bottle

The tiles are filled with a lightweight mix of aerated concrete and waste paper, which can be tinted to simulate marble, slate, or ceramic tile.

Turning the bottles into tiles requires a crimping machine. "We then got involved with engineering students at Seattle University, who developed a manual press that can be used to fold the bottles every time — bang, bang, bang — with no additional energy needed," Thomson told Co.Design.

Thomson wants to build 40 housing units next year covered in the 'A'Gua tiles. Each house will need 10 000 tiles.