The world has a massive plastic waste problem, with tons of plastic bags and bottles ending up in oceans. But one Canadian construction company is finding new ways to reuse plastic and keep it out of the ocean, like building a massive house using 600,000 recycled plastic bottles, on the southwest shore of Nova Scotia.
The innovative home was built by JD Composites Inc., a start-up construction company located in Metaghan, and unveiled earlier this week.
Plastic might seem a strange choice of construction material over traditional options like brick and wood, but the homes have proven sturdy and can withstand extreme weather conditions like hurricanes, flooding, and other natural catastrophes.
"You're saving the planet. You're saving the oceans. You're taking all this [plastic] out of the environment and making stuff with it," David Saulnier, president of the company, told CBC.
Discarded plastic bottles are first shredded and then melted into PET foam, a core material used by the composite industry. This is then converted into panels to create the exterior of the house. The panels are also used for the house’s walls, which provide insulation that helps maintain warm temperatures indoors during cold weather twice as effectively as homes made of conventional materials, according to the builders.
The house, the first of its kind in the country, is designed for areas prone to natural calamities, because it can be built quickly and efficiently — in less than a week with a team of 10 workers — to provide refuge and shelter for people fleeing from disasters. The prototype of the house, which is in a hurricane prone area, also has walls made of 15-centimeter thick plastic slabs that have been tested against winds stronger than a Category 5 storm.
Saulnier and co-founder Joel German originally worked in the boat building and seafood industries and said these experiences and the techniques they learned helped them design the new home.
"It's a bit of an outside approach. Taking from one industry and transferring it over to another. Thinking a bit outside the box, and making it work," German said.
Despite its unusual features, the house does not cost more than any other house built with different materials.
The Canadian government has supported Saulnier and German’s effort to build greener homes. Last year, the company received a $109,690 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to help cover some of the costs of developing the eco-friendly home using clean technology. The grant is part of the country's larger efforts to drive economic growth through investing in a low-carbon, low-pollution, and resource-efficient economy, according to ACOA Minister Navdeep Bains.
"We've seen our ocean and beaches heavily polluted," German told Plastic News.
"Now, with this new process for building homes, we're not only offering an affordable and sustainable solution to green homes, [but also] we feel as though we're finally doing our small part to help clean up some of the mess."