Ecobales, otherwise known as Ubuntu-Blox, are the most important method of upcycling plastics that we advocate for and encourage the adoption of. The reason for this is that Ecobales can be made with every type of plastic, and thus can be used as a catch-all and one-stop solution for dealing with the entirety of a community’s plastic waste stream. Originally Ecobales were made exclusively with shredded and bagged Styrofoam (EPS), with the thinking being that these materials would offer the best insulation quality. They probably do (donate to our continued research!), but the need for a simple yet comprehensive plastic recycling solution drove us in 2015 to start making them with every type of plastic that we collected. Ecobales still need to tested further in order to use them in residential construction here in the USA, but they can be used for all sorts of other constructions including exterior walls and smaller storage buildings.
Ecobales / Ubuntu-Blox are dense bales of bagged and compressed post-consumer plastic or Styrofoam waste that are made using the open-source Ecobale Press. This baling and building system was originally developed by inventor Harvey Lacey in Texas, USA and tested in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, where several structures were built using Styrofoam (EPS) Ecobales. Harvey later built a small and portable prototype structure that was tested for seismic resistance in Texas. His brilliant and revolutionary building system uses readily available materials (waste Styrofoam, shopping bags and twine or wire) to produce highly insulating bales that are then stacked inside of a rebar and wire structural matrix to build highly earthquake-resistant walls and structures.
In the fall of 2014, after completing and testing his first wooden compression machine (previous presses were made of metal), Harvey came to Santa Fe for an Ubuntu-Blox workshop with us. Together with Only Green Design we built a new, bigger compression machine made from reclaimed pallet wood, and transformed about 3 cubic meters of EPS into a new outdoor wall at the local Earth Nurse community.
Due to a plastic shopping bag ban here in Santa Fe, we have had to find a new and better bag for making Ubuntu-Blox. We were delighted to find that the stronger 2-cubic-feet compost and fertilizer bags fit perfectly in the bigger, reclaimed press that we made with Harvey. We then decided to try the Ubuntu-Blox out as big Ecobricks, and filled the compost bags with all sorts of mixed soft, hard and foam plastic waste. The resultant Blox are heavier than pure-styrofoam ones of equal size.
Thinking about Ubuntu-Blox for your own building project?
If sustainability is at the core of your next building project, we highly encourage you to consider Ubuntu-Blox as an affordable, ultra Green solution. At this time, building code for Ubuntu-Blox approves structures of 120 sq. ft or under, as well as outdoor structures. This could be a tool shed, garden bed, green-house base, or courtyard wall. If you’re thinking of building something bigger, like a house, with Ubuntu-Blox, just hold tight! We are currently taking steps to advance building code approval of Ubuntu-Blox.
Why consider building with Ubuntu-Blox?
We’ve got a global plastic pollution crises happening in landfills, waterways, and oceans. Ubuntu-Blox technology offers a solution by upcycling plastic waste into insulation material, while simultaneously providing affordable building supplies to all builders, whether expert or novice.
Getting started with your own sustainable building project is just an email away.
How to Build an Ubuntu-Blox Machine:
Building with Ubuntu-Blox Workshop Videos:
Harvey Lacey in Haiti:
National Technical Systems 7.0 Earthquake Test: