EDN Project Spotlight: Eco-Bricks from African Impact
April 16, 2018
Eco-Brick from African Impact
The Local Challenge
“The total amount of plastic made is 8.3 billion tonnes, according to U.S. scientists. This is the equivalent of 1.5 billion African elephants, or more than half a million blue whales. Africa currently produces around 70 million tonnes (source: World Bank Urban Development Series report) of waste every year. Currently, just 10% of the waste generated every day in this continent is collected. The rest ends up in dump sites and the surrounding environment. Evidence of pollution is everywhere. Plastic hangs from trees like terrible fake flowers. As Zambia marches towards the tail-end of rainy season, the weather still holds the ability to surprise. A deluge of rain can quickly transform dirt roads into rivers of mud. But, it is not just water that flows. The rain pushes great swathes of litter into the streets, national parks and rivers. After the rain, villagers, using stick brooms, sweep aside the collected dirt and litter. But there is nowhere for it to go. In Africa, a lack of education and insufficient waste collection has resulted in the double-edged sword of poor health for local communities and huge damage to the environment.”
Efforts to End Plastic Pollution
“Regular conservation education courses throughout all African Impact projects in Africa. In Livingstone, they turn the problem of plastic durability on its head to tackle two key issues: Excess waste and a lack of affordable building material.
This is done by creating an eco-brick — essentially this is getting a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle and filling it with soft plastics, such as cellophane, chip packets, sweet wrappers, plastic bags and anything else that can’t easily be recycled. Once it’s stuffed and packed into the bottle it is screwed closed and used as a building brick. To make this possible, volunteers participate in litter picking, creating the bricks with the litter they find.
We have also established a swap shop with school students. Through this program, students exchange eco-bricks they have made for rewards ranging from pencils (one brick) to items of clothing (50 bricks). With our partnership with the Conservation and Tourism Society (CATS), we also work alongside Livingstone stakeholders to implement recycling and modern waste management practices in their respective operations.”
African Impact has:
- Created 3,000 eco-bricks, used by taking thousands of pieces of litter off the streets of Zambia (10 eco bricks equal 1 kg of waste)
- Created several chicken coops and piggeries to help communities protect livestock
- Created of a kitchen counter, tables and benches to help with the feeding of children at a local school, using nearly 2,000 bricks.
- Built a wall — using 1,000 bricks — to fence-off a hazardous storage area at the above-mentioned school.
“There is hope. Educating the younger generation is vital if we wish to change mindsets — but for them to connect to their inheritance we must first make them fall in love with it. ‘With 45,000 bags leaving certain supermarkets every day, every eco brick that our children and community can make will have an effect on our Livingstone environment,’ CATS founder Alec Cole said. The war on waste is a battle worth fighting. It may not be the glamorous side of conservation, but it is one that, if everyone works together, can make the difference for future generations to come.
Earth Day Focus
In Livingstone, Zambia, African Impact is working alongside communities and other organizations to reduce plastic pollution. As part of Earth Day, African Impact will take part in a march organized by Conservation and Tourism Society (CATS) to walk alongside school-aged children through the town of Livingstone to highlight the issues.
Info for volunteers for the eco-brick project.