Turning plastic waste into bricks

September 2, 2021

Toilet made out of mixed plastic bricks in Pokhara.

Unlocking the potential of local innovators, UNDP Accelerator has introduced a new technology to make bricks using non-recyclable plastic waste. The first demonstration toilet made up of these bricks was handed over to the Pokhara Metropolitan City amid a function on 1st September 2021 in Pokhara.

Developed and tested by the Green Roads Waste Management Private Limited (GRWM) with technical and financial support from UNDP Accelerator Lab, the brick technology aims to help sustainably reduce and manage the plastic waste while also providing a viable business opportunity for the private sector.

Like in many of the countries, plastic waste has been a major problem in growing cities of Nepal, mainly because of its complex composition. Unlike other biodegradable wastes, plastic wastes do not degrade for a long time and therefore pose numerous critical environmental challenges, affecting all life forms, natural ecosystems and economy.

The brick technology was introduced after a rigorous process of scientific testing and approval. UNDP’s Accelerator Lab and GRWM explored the potential of mixing different volumes of plastics with concrete through the cold process chain without applying any heat.

These bricks were then tested for compressibility at the lab of Pokhara Metropolitan City Office. After the test results showed the bricks meet the compression standards and are in compliance with the National Building Code, Pokhara Metropolitan City Office agreed to provide land for the construction of a demo-toilet using these bricks.

Adding 1% plastic in the brick mixture reduces the overall weight of a brick by nearly 10%, thus making the work easier. In terms of volume, around 40,000 pieces of noodle/biscuit wrappers were accommodated in the demonstration toilet. One normal size room can consume up to 100 kg of non- recyclable waste. Most notably, this process can be easily adopted by any kind of brick manufacturing companies in their regular setup.

UNDP’s Deputy Resident Representative Mr. Bernardo Cocco handed over the keys of the demonstration toilet to the Acting Mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City Office a.i., Ms. Manju Devi Gurung. He appreciated the public-private partnership to explore and test the plausibility of plastic bricks as a proof of concept towards creating a concrete innovation ecosystem and emphasized on the need to institutionalize it further to make it commercially viable.

According to Engineer Netra Prasad Timilsina, Planning Division of Pokhara Metropolitan City Office, the plastic bricks passed the compressibility strength and are compatible for non-load bearing walls like pavements and small construction units. Mr. Mahesh Baral, Chief Administrative Officer of Pokhara Metropolitan City Office, stressed the use of plastic waste as the alternative resources, which could be utilized in construction that could add value to the waste and promote green enterprises.

Ms. Manju Devi Gurung, Acting Mayor a.i. of Pokhara Metropolitan City Office expressed gratitude on exploring this new prospect of turning waste into useful materials. She also committed to initiating policy dialogues to address the possible uses of these plastic bricks, which could provide potential for replication in other local governments as well.

The construction of the prototype of plastic bricks and demonstration toilet has been successful with the technical assistance from UNDP Accelerator Lab in Nepal, Pokhara Metropolitan City Office and Green Roads Waste Management Private Limited. The initiative is expected to promote greener construction and a circular economy.