Student Project Proposes Bottled Water Problem Mitigation


A pair of undergraduate industrial design students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), based in Troy, NY, entered the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA)’s expo with an interesting idea: recycle bottles from bottled water as affordable housing.

The most evident impact of bottled water on the environment is the sheer volume of plastic bottles discarded needlessly after the water is consumed. Even if every single bottle of water were recycled, the recycling process itself uses energy and their incineration can release harmful toxins. If the process were never to start, these bottles would not need to be recycled. In fact, the majority of bottles resulting from bottled water are not recycled. Estimates ranging from 86 to 90 percent of bottles are not recycled, and fill landfills in the United States. At a rate of around 1,000 years for biodegradation, the disposal of these bottles poses an imposing problem.

So, these two students have proposed filling up the bottles again, and not with more expensive water. Instead, the two say that filling the bottles with sand or other insulation material would weigh them down like bricks, and allow the bottles to be interlocked as foundations for construction projects. Said their report,

“Build a house from them, and the sand or other filler would serve as an insulator to keep rooms warm or cool. Meanwhile, the plastic would make the house waterproof and thus more permanent than the plain mud huts often found in the poor countries.”

While some have questioned the practicality of recycling plastic, using bottles as building materials would certainly be valuable.

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