How long does it take for a plastic water bottle to degrade? There is a vast difference of opinion on this and certainly plastic waste is one of the issues bottled water companies must contend with. But what if instead of a plastic bottle degrading in a landfill it went into building a home, a school or a church? Can plastic bottles build a better environment?
Recycling rates for all plastics are up in the U.S. but many countries have limited recycling and some have no recycling programs at all. So bottled water bottles, soda and juice containers end up on city streets and in local rivers and oceans contaminating them. Cerebellum H2O bottled water; Bot-O-Cap, a universal plastic bottle sports cap complete with a self-sustaining flavor reservoir; Twelve Bit Media production company; and Vista Heroica, an exotic huts hotel located in the center of Tierra Bomba Island, launched The Tierra Bomba Bottle Project to create sustainable homes from old plastic bottles and recycled waste materials. Experts claim that, at a minimum, one plastic bottle will take 450 years to completely break down if it is not recycled. But if used differently, that 450 years suddenly becomes advantageous. Located a mile south of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, Tierra Bomba Island is home to about 10,000 people. The island has beautiful beaches and vibrant ocean life around it, making it a place with great potential for tourism. But it also lacks necessities for its residents such as clean water, quality schools, education, and health care.
According to Al Samson, founder of CerebellumH2O who was involved with the project, being able to find ways to help up-cycle plastic waste is something of a no brainer. “The Tierra Bomba Bottle Project is not only helping the environment it is also helping lives,” Samson tells me. “The project is creating new opportunities on the island through art, health education, and it’s something that is sustainable.”
The first objective is to build a community center, The Tierra Bomba Bottle Center as it will be called, which will be outfitted with computers, books, clean water, and community waste solutions, while doubling as an arts and culture center. It is a bold plan, and it began with the realization that empty bottles tossed into the ocean and left on the roadside could be used constructively and not just considered to be trash. With no recycling program on the island, what does one do with thousands of discarded liter bottles? Sand and collected recycled garbage is densely packed into the bottles and capped so it becomes hard it becomes like a brick. The bottles are then used as a reinforcing agent and stacked, with concrete poured over them to create smooth walls.
“We became aware of this project through a Cerebellum supporter and she requested our help as an up and coming brand to help bring awareness to this project,” Samson says. “Once she told us about it we immediately wanted to join. At Cerebellum we don't just want people to see us a water company; we are a socially conscious company that truly cares about the environment and the people of the world. Yes we use plastic bottles but we are also finding ways to up-cycle.”
In spite of recycling, this project, and others like it across the globe show that with imagination, plastic water bottles and other plastic containers can be used for a positive purpose if they are not, or cannot be currently recycled. It’s interesting that the Tierra Bomba project was not an idea from a bottled water or soda company, rather it came from a local resident who saw trash accumulation and imagined a way to not only clean up streets, creeks and the ocean, but also to provide his community with a solution. To learn more go here: Tierra Bomba.
(Photos courtesy of Al Samson)