Following the government’s 583 million dollar investment in housing construction back in 2013, Colombia’s housing deficit has dropped substantially. According to the Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE) report, the improvement is largely due to the implementation of various social housing projects aimed at helping low-income families. Conceptos Plásticos, founded by architect and social entrepreneur Oscar Andres Mendez, is a local enterprise that is building homes and other infrastructure using sustainable bricks made out of plastic waste.
By recycling plastic from electronic waste, packaging and tyres, Conceptos Plásticos has developed a building material called Bloqueplas. The waste collected is melted down, poured into a mould and turned into plastic blocks with a joining design that enables a block to slot into another like Lego pieces.
Aside from being fire and earthquake resistant, the alternative building material provides a durable shelter that requires no maintenance and that is 30 per cent cheaper than traditional housing systems in Colombia’s low-income communities. In addition to this, Conceptos Plásticos reduces water and energy consumption, as well as CO2 emissions by recycling waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Skilled labour is not required to build with the plastic bricks. After initial training on how to use the blocks, as little as four community members can build a whole house in just five days, or a shelter to temporarily house many families in only ten days. The building blocks are easy to dismantle making them also ideal for temporary or mobile shelter solutions.
To date, Conceptos Plásticos has worked with the Colombian government, various NGOs and private organisations to build homes, temporary shelters, classrooms and community halls using its signature building material.