In Abidjan, the commercial capitol of the Ivory Coast, almost 300 tons of plastic is discarded every day. Only about 5% of it is recycled. The city and surrounding area have a critical shortage of classrooms. Conceptos Plásticos is a company in Columbia that makes plastic bricks out of plastic trash. In partnership with UNICEF, it has supplied enough bricks to make 9 new classrooms in Abidjan. It is building a new factory to manufacture its plastic bricks in Yopougon, a suburb of Abidjan.
When the factory is at full capacity, it will produce 9,200 tons of plastic bricks a year — enough to build more than 1,800 classrooms. UNICEF has agreed to buy enough bricks from Conceptos Plásticos for over 500 classrooms, according to France24. The bricks have several advantages over traditional bricks or concrete block. They are much lighter, which makes them easy to transport to remote locations. They can even be carried by mules or humans to places that are inaccessible to wheeled vehicles.
They cost about 1/3 less than bricks or cinder blocks, meaning cash-strapped governments and NGOs can build more classrooms and other structures with the money they have available. They use no mortar so they don’t need repointing regularly the way traditional bricks and concrete blocks do. They are a better insulator, so classrooms stay cooler. And they are non-toxic because no PVC is used to make them.
Head teacher Tirangue Doumbia says the difference between a classroom made with plastic bricks and a traditional classroom is dramatic. “They’re almost beyond comparison. They’re like night and day. Teachers and pupils can move around in these rooms, which they can’t in the others.
Recycling plastic trash is creating opportunities for local women both in the Ivory Coast and in Columbia.