New eco-village hits the (plastic) bottle

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A new home at the Plastic Bottle Village starts at US$149,000 – $300,000, depending on the model(Credit: Plastic Bottle Village)

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Recycled plastic bottles have previously been used to make a sustainable home, but an ambitious new project in Panama hopes to use the ubiquitous modern waste product to construct an entire village. It's early days yet, but the idea is that the aptly-named Plastic Bottle Village will eventually comprise between 90 to 120 homes, each insulated by thousands of plastic bottles.

The brainchild of Canadian entrepreneur Robert Bezeau, Plastic Bottle Village is currently under construction within 83 acres (33.5 ha) of Panamanian jungle. Phase one began in late 2015 and just one single story home has been completed so far, though another two-story castle-style house also nears completion.

Bezeau previously led a now-defunct plastic bottle recycling scheme in Boca Del Toro, Panama. The same bottles collected under that scheme are being used for the Plastic Bottle Village project, and more are being dropped-off by locals every week.

Over 10,000 PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, the kind used to hold soft drinks, were used in the first home. According to the Plastic Bottle Village team, somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000 bottles will be used for each subsequent home.

Put simply, the homes are constructed by first fabricating a steel cage and then filling it with plastic bottles. They are then set into place and electrical cables and other services are inserted. Layers of concrete cover the mesh before the home is finished with windows, roof, septic tank, etc.

Plastic Bottle Village states that the use of plastic bottles is both time and cost effective, compared to typical local materials and techniques. The firm also reports that the bottle-based homes have such good insulation that air-conditioning isn't necessary and that they are earthquake-resistant too.

The homes are currently available for pre-purchase and come in three different styles, with prices starting from US$149,000 to $300,000. In addition to the main development, Plastic Bottle Village is also raising funds via a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign towards building an education center, dormitories and cafeteria at the site.

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