A Costa Rican businessman has developed a type of plastic water bottle that can be turned into a roofing tile when its empty instead of pitched in the trash or sent to a recycling center.
Donald Thomson worked for years to develop the idea after watching children squash plastic water bottles during a beach cleanup, an article in PlasticsNews said.
Like lots of other people, Thomson had been bugged by the amount of plastic trash that washed ashore. Seeing the children flatten the bottles gave him the idea of developing his own bottled water company that also produced roofing tiles.
“What we did is say, ‘Well, there’s so much plastic coming up on the beach, if you can’t beat them, join them,'” he told PlasticNews. “‘And what can we do with this from a high-quality building standpoint.'”
Bottled water from Thomson’s company, Agua Costa Rica, sells for the equivalent of $1.25 to $1.30, slightly more than competing products from PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. The rectangular 710 ml. bottles are shipped in a recycled plastic tote that stores give out to their customers.
When the bottles are empty, they are compacted and filled with a mixture of recycled paper, foam and cement. Then they’re mounted on rails and woven together with string to make roofing tiles, the article said.
“I get my raw material back for almost zero cost,” he said. “That’s a really great business model. That’s a whole new deal.”
Improving housing for low-income people
A local newspaper, The Tico Times, said that the bottles are made from 100 percent recycled plastic and filled with water collected near Juan Castro Blanco National Park. Once the recycled bottles are collected, they are pressed and filled to become roofing tiles.
It will take some 5,000 water bottles to roof a small house, 8,000 bottles for a house of average size.
The water bottles are attractive from a recycling point of view, but Thomson told the newspaper the real point is providing quality building materials at a low cost.
“The cycle of poverty is often determined by where you live,” Thomson said. “Some housing projects fail because the homes people have don’t appreciate over time… We’re going to be able to sell [them] almost at cost,” he said. “All for the price of garbage.”
Thomson is a Canadian entrepreneur who has lived in Costa Rica since 1990.