Refugee Turns Used Plastic Bottles Into Resilient Homes

Refugee Turns Used Plastic Bottles Into Resilient Homes

In a refugee camp in the desert of Algeria, an inventive and industrious man is helping his community turn waste plastic bottles into homes.

In the desert, conditions are brutal. Heavy rains, sandstorms, and widely varying temperatures (up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and below freezing at night) make survival a challenge.

But 90,000 Sahrawi refugees live there, and they usually reside in homes that are either tents or adobe mud brick — both exceedingly vulnerable to the elements. In 2015, torrential rains caused flooding and ruined 17,000 homes and over half of the community’s infrastructure.

Tateh Lehbib Breica is a Sahrawi refugee living at the camp in Tindouf, Algeria. He studied renewable energy and has a master’s degree in energy efficiency. So far, he has built 26 houses using plastic bottles, straw, earth, and cardboard. The houses make use of bottles that have been discarded, which are 20 times more resistant and markedly cheaper to construct than adobe. The houses also keep cooler inside because they have design features such as a round shape, a double layer roof, and two windows at different heights to allow for better ventilation. In contrast, adobe houses have heavy zinc roofs, which conduct heat and can crush inhabitants if they collapse.

Breica’s houses make use of about 6,000 bottles that would likely otherwise end up in landfills. And that’s great, because plastic waste is a huge issue (and probably much worse than we think).

Across the world, a million plastic bottles are sold a minute, and over 90% of them are not recycled. A plastic bottle takes hundreds of years to decompose, and may never break down completely. It’s estimated that by the year 2050, 99% of sea birds will have plastic in their gut because our waste ends up in the oceans (if you eat seafood it is likely that plastic ends up in your gut as well).

Breica is doing amazing work for his community and the environment, and is an extreme demonstration of ingenuity and resourcefulness in adverse conditions. His work is being supported by the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR).

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  1. Diane Smith

    What a man! Not only has he learned how to stop plastic pollution but has put his knowledge into practice by building cheap homes to counter extreme temperatures for needy Algerians. Again, WHAT A MAN! Hope his ingenuity prevails and a whole industry is produced. Can imagine the impetus for young children to start the cycle of collections and even governments offering 3-4 cents per bottle for building materials. The sand is free.
    TATEH LEHBIB BREICAT , a Sahrawi refugee living at a camp in Tindouf, Algeria, using his renewable energy skills, has a master’s degree in energy efficiency. All proof refuges are important to the survival of their people.

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  2. Virgene

    Necessity is the mother of invention! (A part of a quote from the Republic by Plato.)
    This man is resourceful and his idea is needed in the world. Give him employment!

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  3. Joan Marie Churton

    This is a fantastic story. How can the US get involved with collecting and sending its plastic bottles over there? This man needs some kind of award for his ingenuity and integrity. Bravo, Bravo<Bravo!

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  4. cindi scholefield

    Hooray for Mr. Breika. I have seen projects like this in other parts of the world too. A great way to serve two purposes – good accommodation and conservation recycling.

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  5. Shasha

    Does he put water in them or just air? I am glad he is making good use of the plastic bottles.

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  6. Keskaloor

    The old time miners in Nevada made similar houses out of glass booze bottles. Some still exist in the ghost towns of the desert. — But this is a good way to get rid of some of the plastic that is choking the world.

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  7. Bev

    THAT IS AWESOME! I hope the US starts to ship all our unrecycled plastic bottles to them. What a great way to keep them out of the oceans!

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  8. Debbie Estephan

    I knew there had to be something that could be done with those water bottles. Takes one person to think of it! This building a home with them is ingenious!!! What a creative mind he has and this will help so many! A trophy is needed for this invention!!????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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  9. Leanne

    Bravo to this guy’s ingenuity and environmental sustainability. I take my hat off to him.

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