Panama’s waste is now a village of plastic bottles

Isla Colón in Bocas Del Toro, Panama will be home to an entire village constructed out of recycled plastic bottles.

From the Series

Plastic bottles cause havoc to environments all over the world. In an effort to keep discarded plastic off the streets and out of landfills, a number of initiatives have used the tossed PET as building materials. In the picturesque Isla Colón in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, Robert Bezeau has constructed the world’s first village made entirely of recycled plastic bottles.

Bezeau’s efforts began in 2012 when he spearheaded the Bocas recycling program. He found a startling number of discarded plastic products would end up in landfills, garbage bins, or they’d be burnt - all harmful practices. According to his website, the solution came to Bezeau in a dream.

Using the one million bottles collected during the recycling project, Bezeau and his team set out to build a house. The first iteration of the project began in 2015. Bezeau stacked 10 000 plastic bottles into a steel frame. This frame formed the walls of the first two-bedroom home. The second iteration began early in 2016. Bezeau plans to build 120 homes on 83 acres of hilltop partial ocean view lots and secluded jungle lots.

The plastic is stacked into a steel frame before it is covered in a layer of concrete. Although concrete and steel are not ideal materials, the use of the plastic bottles helps the environment and provides adequate insulation. The community offers three kinds of homes, designed by the team in consultation with top architecture firms throughout Panama. Custom designed homes are also accepted.

The homes come equipped with septic tank system, piped water catchment gutters, plumbing, electrical, standard windows, and doors and an exterior sidewalk.

In addition, the unique panel techniques used in the construction are able to flex and release energy, making the structures earthquake resistant.