From plastic trash to ecobricks to ecoblocksThe social impact of our CSR projects can either be long term or immediate. The question is if these projects can be sustainable after we exit. The following is one of those projects with immediate impact as it is related to helping solve the problem of plastic bottles and trash all over the country. With the ecobricks project, there is hope when it comes to properly getting rid of our discarded plastic bottles, plastic wrappers and the like, and recycling these into something literally concrete, as in a concrete wall. All you have to do is to stuff plastic wrappers into recycled plastic bottles and you get an ecobrick material. You can even make an ecobrick slide for schools. Hanna Aguilar of First Balfour helped gather the answers to these questions.
How did the project come about and when?
It started with First Balfour’s sustainability campaign called Zero Hero. Zero Hero is an environment awareness campaign that we launched last May 2016.
Our goal is to encourage our employees and their families and friends to give back to the environment by reducing their carbon footprint. This can be as simple as avoiding meat, decluttering and BYOB [bringing your own bag or bottle]. For example, we have meatless Monday. Our canteen does not sell soft drinks anymore. During meetings, everyone has their own tumbler and we serve healthy snacks like fruits and sandwiches.
After the things that we’ve done for the environment, we felt we can do something more. So in February 2017, we started the #StuffItChallenge whose main goal is to collect plastic bottles stuffed with nonbiodegradable waste, also known as ecobricks.
What is the durability of the ecobricks in terms of typhoons and earthquakes?
Currently, our ecoblocks are similar in strength to that of a conventional non- load-bearing CHB [concrete hollow block]. The blocks are then supported by reinforced concrete columns and beams to ensure the structural stability of our projects.
As of now, we may only recommend using them for singlestory structures. Our next goal is to produce a load-bearing ecoblock to accommodate larger-scale projects.
What were the challenges that the project faced? How did your team overcome these?
Our pilot project for the ecobrick was a WASH [Water, Sanitation & Hygiene] facility in Batangas. Since it was our first time building with the material, it was a challenge figuring out the most efficient way to construct with it.
Upon its completion, the team figured that the methodology could be made less labor-intensive and may be built faster if we made a precast ecobrick instead. After weeks of consultation with our in-house engineers, followed by several prototypes, we came up with the precast we now call ecoblocks.
What Lopez Values did this project bring out?
Social justice. As we construct our projects in the provinces, we also want to promote a positive impact on the community, especially in the environment they live in.
To utilize our ecobricks material, we converted them to ecoblocks and constructed a new toilet and hand-washing facility at a public school in Tanauan, Batangas. The facility promotes good health as it encourages students to have good personal hygiene. It also sends a reminder that we need to do something now to help protect the environment.
How did it impact the community?
Pantay National High School (PNHS), a pioneer community of ecobrick in Tanauan City, Batangas, has embraced the project initiative since we launched it last August 2017.
Students, teachers, parents and even barangay officials continued to work together to come up with their own projects using ecobricks. They were awarded by the Department of Education division for best practice in ecological awareness. Other schools also tied up with our chosen community and now share the same vision on ecobricks usage.
From waste segregation, collection of bottles and brainstorming of new ideas, the pioneer community has come a long way.
What do the beneficiaries say about the project?
PNHS school coordinator Donna Marfa said: “First Balfour is a constant reminder that unity is strength, and when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved for the environment.”
School principal Marites Miranda also said: “We are glad that the main purpose of the project is to craft an ideal vision for the ecobrick beginners and unite communities in raising ecological consciousness. We also focused on the importance of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle), how to do the #StuffItChallenge, design concept of WASH facility, and community co-ownership.”
Even if the project is continuing or not, it is a solution to the many plastics all around us.
We do not have any statistics on the danger of these plastics. But since we started the ecobrick project, we’ve already collected 3,384 kilograms of nonbiodegradable waste. (Story/Photos by: Dulce Festin-Baybay)
From plastic trash to ecobricks to ecoblocks 2
From plastic trash to ecobricks to ecoblocks 3