A recycling company in Davao City, Philippines turns tonnes of single-use plastic trash into a range of building materials such as floor tiles, bricks, planks, and pavers.
Envirotech Waste Recycling collects plastic trash such as candy wrappers, shopping bags, plastic straws, shampoo sachets, junk food packaging and converts them into furniture and building materials.
The recycling company’s owner, Winchester Lemen shares he saw an opportunity upon seeing how much plastic waste ends up in the landfill. So he decided to put up a recycling plant in his hometown and started collecting plastic waste from a nearby landfill.
In 2017, he started to make school chairs using recycled plastic. His recycled school chairs became popular and drew media attention. Politicians and big companies also supported his idea and incorporated it into their social responsibility campaigns.
After the successful implementation of the recycled school chairs project, the business is now manufacturing floor tiles, bricks, planks, and pavers. Before the year ends, the engineer plans to build a 28-sqm house that is made out of 85-90% plastic waste. He’s calling his latest project, EnviroHome.
“We will need at least three tonnes of plastic waste or three thousand kilos of single-use plastic to build one [28-sqm] house.”
“We have started the project by making floor tiles and planks that will support the house’s foundation. We are trying to make each component of the house including the ceiling and roofing, which will all be made out of plastic waste.”
The EnviroHome is designed to meet the needs of families that are living in remote areas. The 28-sqm house will be equipped with solar lights and a water generator device that extracts water from humid ambient air.
“It will take one day to build and can last for 20 years or so with free replaceable parts,” Mr Lemen says.
Each unit will cost around Php 280k to Php 380k or AUD 7,700 to AUD 10,500.
A solution to the plastic problem
The Filipino engineer believes his EnviroHome project is the quickest possible solution to the Philippines’ 5.7 million housing backlog. At the same time, he sees this as an opportunity to address the country’s single-use plastic problem.
A recent audit report in the Philippines has shown the country uses a ‘shocking’ amount of single-use plastic, nearly 60 billion sachets a year.
According to the report, more than half of non-recyclable plastic analysed in the survey came from sachets—small plastic packets often lined with aluminium or containing other materials that make them non-recyclable.
With his mechanical engineering background, he tries to develop machines that will allow him to recycle products that are considered non-recyclable.
“We are now recycling products such as styrofoam, laminated items, junk food packaging and PET bottles that usually just go straight to the landfill.”
“We collect all kinds of plastic. Even the single-use plastic ones that we use every day can be mixed with other plastics to make a [new] product.
Part of Mr Lemen’s advocacy is to create partnerships with various local government units to set-up recycling plants in their communities. He hopes he would be able to reach out to more communities, get more people involved and inspire them to recycle.
To ensure no more plastic waste will end up in the landfill, he is encouraging people to sort their household waste properly and recycle everything that can be recycled at-source.
“I hope people will learn to recycle and sort their trash at home or at source, so it will be easier for garbage collectors and recycling companies [like us] to convert them to useful materials.”