How to Make an Ecobrick: An Earth-Friendly Solution to Single-Use Plastic

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the amount of plastic waste produced daily? There’s an urgent need to address this issue, and you have the power to contribute to the solution!

Meet the ecobrick—a practical and innovative response to the worldwide plastic crisis. Not only does it help reduce single-use plastic but it’s also a stepping stone towards sustainable living. Understanding the devastating impact of plastic on our environment can be daunting, but coming up with practical solutions doesn’t have to be.

Imagine turning your waste into valuable resources. From building applications to art projects, ecobricking is paving the way. And the best part? Anyone can make them. You don’t need fancy tools or special skills, just your everyday plastic waste, an empty bottle, and a commitment to protecting our environment.

Join us on this journey as we dive deeper into the world of ecobricking—what it is, why it matters, and how you can start making one today. Ready to reduce your plastic footprint, inspire others, and help build a greener future?

Let’s dive right in!

What Is an Ecobrick? 

A sustainable solution to repurposing single-use plastic waste, an ecobrick is a plastic bottle packed tightly with non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste, which can be used as a building block for construction or for creative endeavors. 

Essentially, it’s a testament to creative waste management, turning what would otherwise be environmental pollutants into valuable and functional resources.

Ecobricking is nothing new mind you. According to Refash, the world’s first platform for upcycled fashion and accessories, it started in Guatemala in 2003 before spreading to the Philippines and then South Africa.

The Global Ecobrick Alliance provides a more detailed and technical explanation of what an ecobrick is. They also have a wealth of information on their website, including the long story of plastic

Why Knowing How to Make Ecobricks Is Important

With the mounting plastic crisis, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or powerless in the face of such a vast problem. That’s where ecobricking shines as the ideal solution. It allows us to make a tangible difference right in our own homes, with resources we already have. 

By turning our everyday waste into ecobricks, we’re not just disposing of used plastic—we’re transforming it into something useful. It’s an empowering, accessible, and practical response that addresses the issue at its core. 

More than a solution, ecobricking is a mindset: a hands-on, proactive approach to single-use plastic and a step towards a more sustainable and mindful lifestyle.

Ask Google about plastic pollution and you’ll find yourself mired in disturbing plastic waste statistics. Reading through them, it’s easy to see why learning how to make an ecobrick is a skill that matters.

*When you consider that the US generates more than 35 million tons of plastics and recycles just 8.3% of it, forever is a very long time. 

But quitting plastic is easier said than done when you’re a city-dwelling human in the 21st century. Aside from a couple of zero-waste unicorns, the vast majority of us find it almost impossible to avoid.

Step-By-Step Instructions to Make an Ecobrick

Creating an ecobrick can be a slow process—it can take weeks to fully stuff a bottle. But, with patience and persistence, this simple act can make a significant impact in the fight against plastic waste. 

From gathering materials to the final compact, every step is a move towards more sustainable living. Here’s a quick primer on what you need to know:

  1. Gather Your Materials: You’ll need an empty plastic bottle, a long stick (like a wooden spoon), and a decent pair of kitchen scissors.
  2. Collect Your Plastic: Gather your single-use plastic waste. This can include plastic bags, wrappers, packaging, etc. Make sure all the plastic is clean and dry to prevent bacterial growth.
  3. Prepare Your Plastic: Cut your collected plastic into small pieces using your scissors. A smaller size helps you pack the plastic more tightly into the bottle.
  4. Start Filling: Feed the small pieces of plastic into the bottle. If the opening of your bottle is small, you might find it helpful to use a funnel or make one from a rolled-up piece of paper.
  5. Compact Your Plastic: Every so often, use your stick to push and compact the plastic down into the bottle. This step is crucial, as the density of the ecobrick is what gives it its strength and usability.
  6. Keep Going: Continue the process of adding plastic and compacting it until your bottle is filled to the brim.
  7. Final Compact: When your bottle is full, give it one last compacting push with your stick. The completed brick should be solid and hard enough for you to stand on.
  8. Cap It Off: Screw the cap onto your completed ecobrick. Well done! 

Key Considerations for Successfully Making an Ecobrick

One important aspect to remember when creating an ecobrick is the quality of your work. The tighter the plastic is packed, the stronger your brick will be. Ensuring the plastic is clean and dry before packing it into the bottle is essential to prevent bacterial growth and unpleasant odors, which would undermine its longevity.

The size of the plastic bottle you choose also plays a role. Smaller bottles can be easier to pack tightly and are often a more manageable starting point for beginners. As you gain experience and confidence, you can start using larger bottles.

Finally, be patient with the process. It can be surprisingly time-consuming to pack a bottle densely enough to make a useful building block. But thinking about the environmental benefits and the potential uses for your finished ecobrick can make this a satisfying and rewarding activity. 

Okay, maybe satisfying and rewarding is a little too optimistic. Try to enjoy the process anyway by using it as an opportunity to practice being in the moment. And remember: every little effort counts in our collective fight against plastic waste.

What to Do With Your Completed Ecobrick

Image credit: The Global Ecobrick Alliance –

We give our ecobricks to Waste-ED, a Cape Town-based waste management consultancy started by Candice Mostert in 2014. Their ‘back your brick’ initiative ensures every brick is used in local building programs.

If you don’t have an ecobrick initiative in your area, don’t worry, there are still plenty of creative ways to use them at home. You could build a garden, turn them into functional projects such as walls and infrastructures, or make furniture with them.

GEA has an entire section on their website that walks you through everything you need to know to build with ecobricks. You can also keep it simple and just use them in your garden as flower bed edges. If you’re feeling adventurous you could even create a pond. As a community, you could prettify open spaces in the neighborhood.

Taking It to the Next Level: How to Go Beyond Ecobricking

While creating ecobricks is an excellent way to repurpose plastic waste, it’s just one part of a larger commitment to a more sustainable lifestyle. Consider exploring ways to reduce your plastic consumption in the first place. 

This could be through mindful shopping habits, such as choosing products with less packaging, bringing your own bags or containers, and supporting companies with sustainable practices.

Another aspect to explore is community involvement. The GEA trainer directory now has trainers based in the United States, the UK, Australia, South Africa, and Indonesia. Why not get in touch with them to organize a workshop or awareness event in your local community? 

You could also partner with local schools or organizations to use completed ecobricks in community construction projects—turning an environmental effort into a community-building activity.

Keep in mind that ecobricks are practical but they are an interim solution for plastic waste. The ultimate goal is to shift towards a zero-waste lifestyle, where the need for ecobricks becomes obsolete. 

So, keep exploring and innovating to find new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle in all areas of your life. A move off-grid may be a step too far (it certainly is for us!), but what about going minimalist on your wardrobe?

Remember, each step forward, no matter how big or small, helps to make a positive change for our planet. The easy swaps listed below can make a big difference in the long run. Why not try a few of them?

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Refuse the Plastic Straw and Drink Straight From the Glass

Too out there? Buy a reusable bamboo straw that you carry with you. Just remember, you’ll also need a tiny brush to clean it with. Fortunately, a lot of places sell these with the straw.

Carry Your Own Cutlery and Cloth Napkin

Carrying your own cutlery and cloth napkin with you means you can refuse the plastic cutlery when you buy takeout. It sounds like a mission but it’s really not. Take it out and clean it when you get home from work and pop it straight back in your bag. Easy peasy.

Use a Reusable Coffee Cup and Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Get yourself a reusable coffee cup and stainless steel water bottle to caffeinate and hydrate on the go. Rather than using bottled water at home, invest in a filtering system like a Brita jug or clay water filter.

Pack Your Own Lunch

Packing your own lunch is another way to say no to single use plastic. It’s also better for your budget and your health. You could even start a lunch club at work, which will encourage everyone to stop eating at their desks. It’s also a great excuse to invest in a Golden Warhol Girls lunch bag.

Opt for Reusable Shopping Bags

Taking your own reusable bags when you go shopping means you can avoid using the plastic bags that are still so prevalent in most stores. They’re relatively inexpensive to buy and easy to store. If you forget them at home just pack your groceries loose in the car, so what if everything rolls around.

Bonus Sustainable Living Ideas

These are some additional sustainable living ideas you can implement at home that will help you say no to plastic more consistently. Like the other examples, these aren’t difficult swaps. It’s more a matter of getting used to a different way of doing things.

Alternatives to Making Ecobricks

While the humble ecobrick serves as a great initiative towards tackling plastic waste, there are other things you can do that can also contribute to the cause. One obvious and effective approach is opting for recyclable packaging whenever possible. If you’re not sure, do some research to learn what every recycling symbol actually means.

Image credit: Lenka Dzurendova, Jarritos Mexican Soda and Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Another alternative is composting organic waste at home. While this doesn’t address plastic waste directly, it drastically cuts down on the amount of general household waste, much of which is often wrapped in plastic.

You might assume (like I did) that food will biodegrade really quickly wherever you leave it. But that’s not the case. It turns out that the lack of oxygen on a landfill prevents this natural process from occurring. A lettuce takes 25 years to decompose in this environment. 

Repurposing or upcycling is a great way to breathe new life into something. The internet littered with upcycling ideas that will turn your trash into treasures. Granted, not all of us are Pinterest crafty types, but there are still plenty of ways to avoid sending something to the landfill before its time.

Regifiting can be a contentious issue, but think about it. The item in question is probably in the garage, basement, back of your closet or wherever you dump the stuff you don’t use. At least by regifting it someone else gets to use and enjoy it. More importantly, it helps you avoid the buying cycle.

Lastly, consider participating in or organizing local clean-up activities. This not only helps to remove waste directly from the environment but also builds a community spirit around conservation efforts. 

It’s important to remember that while individual actions are paramount, it’s collective efforts that bring about significant changes. Plus, it’s more fun in a group!

Again, these methods are most effective when used in tandem. The ultimate goal should be to reduce our overall waste and shift towards more sustainable practices in all aspects of life.

Wrapping Up and Our Experience With Making Ecobricks

Sporty and I have tried (and failed) on numerous occasions to say no to plastic for good. We eventually realized that wasn’t an achievable goal for us, which is why we decided to start making ecobricks instead.

The ecobrick movement is growing stronger everyday, with more and more people turning to it as means to dispose of single use plastic and build sustainably. But as I mentioned earlier, the end goal is still to live plastic-free.

Making ecobricks should be seen more as an interim measure than a longterm solution. The aim shouldn’t be to find a way to dispose of single use plastic. Rather, we need to stop it being made in the first place.

If there isn’t a market for it manufacturers won’t make it. That will only happen if we stop buying it in the first place. Yes, easier said than done, but we need to at least try. (I’m writing this for us, too.)

Let’s commit to pulling up our sustainably produced Solemate socks together.