Reduce, reuse, recycle, bet you never imagined those three words would have anything to do with real estate, much less provide a cost-effective option to owning and even maintaining an aesthetically cosy house. We’ve listened to the tales of woe over and over again, the planet is in danger and plastics are considered to be one of the vicious villains. Petroleum-based plastics like PET bottles don’t decompose like organic materials. In developing countries, it is common practice to bury them in landfills or simply drop them in the ocean. Sadly, the materials take hundreds of years to decompose and only end up releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.

This is clearly a disaster and something should definitely be done. However, if you’re one of those that wonder how caring about the environment increases the balance in your account (just don’t admit that in public ), you will be delighted to know that these PET bottles can be used to create colourful affordable homes that are bulletproof and fireproof. Buildings created with these plastic bottles also provide insulation, so they hold a comfortable temperature all year round. Construction workers fill the plastic bottles with sand and bind them together with cement, creating a structure more solid than those built with cinder blocks.

Non-governmental organizations, media platforms, and citizens spread across different continents can attest to the ability of houses built with PET bottles to survive harsh weather conditions. A heartwarming and enlightening story reported by the United Nations Refugee Agency puts the spotlight on Tateh Lehib Breica, a Sahrawi Refugee living in a camp in Tindouf, Algeria. The area is famous for its extreme climatic conditions which include storms, heavy rains and temperatures up to 113 degrees. In fact, lots of refugees in Tateh’s camp lost their homes in 2015 when a storm broke out.

His solution was to use his knowledge of renewable energy, to build each refugee a circular house made from about 6000 plastic bottles found around the camp and landfill sites. The circular shape made the houses aerodynamic, making them able to withstand storms. His fellow refugees were ecstatic, especially those who had to live in tents since their living quarters made of mud bricks was destroyed by the storm.

It’s fascinating to note that this initiative was also supported by a Kaduna based NGO called Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE). Yahaya Ahmed, the CEO of DARE stated that the plastic bottle buildings in Kaduna were fitted with energy saving stoves and powered by solar panels. The most captivating aspect of the project is that the houses were designed to not produce any carbon emissions- a factor imperative in addressing Nigeria’s deforestation and pollution problems.

Isn’t it crazy to think that with such an ingenious solution at our fingertips, there’s a housing crisis in Nigeria? The low-cost housing schemes barely address the shortage and creating houses the traditional way is too expensive for most citizens. About three million PET bottles are wasted every day when a two bedroom house requires only 14,000 bottles!

The heap of expenses you have to sort out simply because you own a home is reminiscent of the famous “this is Sparta” scene when King Leonidas kicked the messenger into what seemed like a scary bottomless pit. First, building a house is a daunting task. Expensive building materials are needed to create a solid foundation while fancy security doors, exquisite furniture and air conditioning systems are required to make the finishing touches. Then you have to think about the utility bills- water, plumbing issues, electricity, and don’t forget the fuel for that gas guzzling generator to switch on the fan or air conditioning units needed to soothe the scorching heat presented during the dry season.

Luckily, these eco-friendly and energy efficient buildings proffer the perfect win-win situation. They cost about one-third of a house made with cinder blocks and their adoption will address two unfavourable issues- homelessness and environmental pollution.