Posted on the 1st July 2018

This is PLASTIC FREE JULY, an international campaign aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating our use of single use plastics. Sign up at to receive many handy, practical and affordable hints on how all of us can contribute to our fight against plastics littering our environment (and in our case the ocean).

We will highlight several actions and campaigns that ordinary people could get involved in throughout the month of July (and thereafter). In this first feature we look at Ecobricks. The Ecobrick movement has gained a huge following throughout the world. Details on how to get started with your own Ecobricks can be found at The Endangered Wildlife Trust has also become involved and will release details of drop off points where Ecobricks can be delivered.

In this description I will give a brief overview of Ecobricks and how these can be produced followed by a description of my first two failed attempts to make Ecobricks. It is hoped that this will inspire many members and friends to become involved by sharing practical information on how to do it.

My first one litre and two litre Ecobricks
The one litre brick took 6 and the two litre brick 13 of these bags of plastic and other non-recyclables










This is another project in support of BirdLife Overberg's CleanMarine campaign













What is an Ecobrick? It is a 500ml, 1 litre, 2 litre or 5 litre plastic cool-drink or water bottle compacted to capacity with non-recyclable material. Material to be used include bread packets, cellophane, cereal packets, chips packets, chocolate wrappers, cling wrap, dog and cat food pellet packets, foil packets, plastic bags and packets, plastic or foil packaging for pills and medication, polystyrene trays and containers, till slips, etc, etc. It is very important that all material need to be CUT UP INTO SMALL PIECES and that it should be CLEAN AND DRY. NO SAND IS TO BE USED. Your Ecobrick therefore becomes your alternative dustbin.

You further need items to compact the material with – it should be able to fit into the bottle neck and needs to be longer than the bottle. The photograph herewith illustrates the types of items that I found to be most practical. And then you need to start compacting and compacting and compacting and compacting ………….. There should not be any air gaps in the bottle as you are producing a brick substitute. A 500ml brick should weigh about 200g, a 1 litre brick must weigh at least 350g and a 2 litre bottle-brick must at least 500g. The bottles must have their lids on.

From left: The back of a feather duster works well to compact stuff at the bottom and withdraws easily without bringing plastic back to the top; the same applied to the back of a "houtlepel"; a knitting needle and thin wooden item work well to compact stuff from the side of the bottle downwards
















These "bricks" are used throughout the world to build classrooms, bus stops, benches, you name it. Keep in mind that it also saves natural resources by substituting clay bricks. These Ecobricks are bone hard once compacted tightly and are nearly impossible to break in half. Until further notice we will deliver these Ecobricks to an organisation in Stellenbosch that use it in community development projects.


So, a few weeks ago I started with my first one litre Coke bottle, much to the amusement and often sarcasm from Elaine: “You’re crazy”. “Will get bored”. “Will lose patience”, and so on. My first mistake was removing the label on the bottle – it is very difficult to get the glue off the bottle and a very sticky affair as one handles the bottle continually. Then, those “nipples” at the bottle need to be compacted until bone hard before you add layer after layer of plastics and other material. My bottle was compacted really hard at the top, but I could not get to the bottom to remove the air bubbles. (An ordinary knitting needle sorted this problem out later). It was not even close to the prescribed target weight, with the result that I cut the bottle open and started with the next one.

This time I got the “nipples” really hard and Elaine suggested that we cut strips of those glossy junk advertisements from the newspapers, fold it up and put into the bottle. Big mistake – these and things such as folded chip packets do not compact and invariably (and frustratingly) come back to the top. Also, there is no way that you can get it out of the bottle. Clearly such objects need to be cut up into small pieces. Thus, cut up the bottle and start again.

The one litre Ecobrick getting there
The two litre Ecobrick in the making













My third attempt at compacting a one litre plastic bottle has become, what I believe, could be a lethal weapon. It is bone hard and I’m sure that I’ll crack the skull of an attacker with it. It is well over the target weight of 350 gram. Lots of lessons were also learnt with the objects that one uses to compact the plastics – I give suggestions in the photograph above. Use something, such as a thin item (or knitting needle) to compact the plastic from the side of the bottle downwards and then force the stuff in the middle down with a heavy item like a wooden spoon. Most importantly, one needs to use stuff that one can swivel and bring back to the top without the plastic coming back with it.

I have also completed a 2 litre bottle successfully and have now started a 5 litre job.

Why am I so chuffed with all of this? I am fighting plastic pollution and do this while watching rugby, soccer, the news or even movies, for that matter. BUT, we have reduced our weekly black municipal refuse bag by more than 50% and the recycle bag by more than 75%. Less stuff in landfill and the general refuse stream. Other features in this series during July will look at other ways of addressing the evil of single use plastics and other household waste.

Come on, be a devil and give it a bash.


ANTON ODENDAL (posted: 2018-08-07 14:52:47)
People living in the Hermanus area can deliver the completed Ecobricks to us in Onrus - or 082 550 3347. Anton
ELSA MARAIS (posted: 2018-07-30 07:23:52)