Recycled Plastic Helps Rebuild Indonesian Schools

September 8, 2021   |   Blog

In 2018, an earthquake ravaged parts of Indonesia, completely flattening several villages and killing more than 550 people. 

Families lost loved ones, homes were destroyed, and children were left without schools. In the three years following the earthquake, students attended class in tents. But now, new schools are being built with the help of recycled plastic “eco-blocks.”

Eco-blocks are made from a mixture of recycled plastic and wood. The mixture is formed into blocks that are similar to Lego bricks. The blocks interconnect to form the walls of the school. The first school built from the eco blocks was constructed in just six days. 

The eco-blocks are a promising development for areas that are often impacted by earthquakes. Unlike brick-and-mortar buildings, the eco blocks do not crumble when they shake. They are flexible and can shake with the ground without snapping. Officials believe this feature will prevent buildings from collapsing during earthquakes, in turn, saving lives. 

The eco-blocks schools are quick to build and safer for students who have suffered from the devastation that earthquakes can bring. Duncan Ward, the founder and CEO of Classroom of Hope, the Australian charity organization that led the eco-block school project, said the eco blocks are a sustainable alternative to the brick and mortar buildings that prove unreliable during earthquakes.

“[These schools] are so much more durable, they’re lightweight, they’re cost-effective, and they’re going to last 100-plus years, and they’re cleaning up the environment,” he explained to the ABC, later adding, “For every classroom you’re building, you’re removing two to three tonnes of plastic waste [from the environment].”

The eco-blocks used in the schools were made by the Finnish company Block Solutions. The company, in coordination with Classroom of Hope, plans to build 200 schools to replace those lost in 2018. 

Block Solutions makes its bricks out of recycled polypropylene. Polypropylene is the plastic resin identified by the number five in the United States. Along with PET (used in clear plastic bottles and identified by the number 1) and HDPE (used in jugs and identified by the number 2), polypropylene is recyclable in most curbside recycling programs throughout the country. Polypropylene is commonly used in items like takeout containers, plates, and flexible bottles like those used to contain syrup or ketchup.