Plastic thatching creates local jobs and helps tackle mountains of waste.
Many people in the developing world opt for thatched roofs, a time-proven method that is extremely durable and acts as a natural cooling system. The only problem is that excessive cultivation has made these grasses harder to come by, which is why many people opt for materials such as corrugated tin instead. By comparison, they trap huge amounts of heat, and are unsustainable during heavy rains. Thankfully, Dr. David Saiia, a professor of strategic economics and sustainability at Duquesne University has come up with an alternate solution.
Dr. Saiia’s solution is roof thatching made from plastic bottles that would otherwise pile up in the middle of the South American Rainforest and have a negative impact on the local ecosystem. Using a hand-powered machine, the tops and bottoms of a bottle are sliced off, while the remaining body is flattened and cut into strips. These strips can then be fastened to lengths of bamboo, or melted together using ultrasonic welding machines provided by Dukane.
The result is thatching that lasts much longer than traditional reeds, provides ventilation for the inhabitants, dampens the sound of rain, and allows natural light to enter the house. Another unexpected benefit is that dust and dirt gradually accumulated on the plastic roofs, which results in Naturally Occurring Green Roofs (NOGR’s). In areas such as Maqui Picuna, an Ecuadoran nature preserve where the pilot was carried out, the roofs provide additional space where rare orchids and bromeliads can grow.
Apart from putting plastic waste to better use, Dr. Saiia hopes to create a new cottage industry that will create jobs for people who want to fabricate, sell, and install the roofs. When you consider the fact that each roof requires anywhere between1200 and 1600 bottles, it seems there is a big opportunity for locals to earn a livelihood, and help tackle the gargantuan problem of plastic pollution.
Along with his partner Vannah Le, Dr. Saiia has also founded the Reuse Everything Institute to help educate people and develop the idea further.
Images by Reuse Everything Institute