A house made of plastic bottles and plastered with cow dung? It’s true, says M. Sai Gopal

Thousands of plastic bottles which are otherwise discarded as waste or picked up by rag-pickers and sold as scrap are neatly arranged in a pattern that defies logic. Each bottle, filled with dry mud, is held tightly together with a solution of cow dung and mud.

Surprisingly, the structure exudes a sense of solidity and has an earthy feel about it. It is even attractive to look at. Tucked away in the by-lanes of Uppal in Hyderabad, the structure is the first eco-friendly recycled plastic bottle house. It looks like any other small house except that the side walls have not been plastered. Instead, close to 4,000 plastic bottles solidly held to each other jut out of the space, drawing curious glances from onlookers.

There are no bricks, no traditional binding agents like cement, steel frames or concrete to provide solidity. All that's used is dry mud, cow dung, bamboo, discarded plastic and a little bit of cement for plastering. The recycled plastic bottle house, spread over 225 sft is the brainchild of husband and wife duo, Prashant and Aruna Lingam, of Bamboo House India. It could well be the answer to the country’s search for an affordable housing option, says the couple. It can be built even by untrained personnel, thereby cutting out masons.

“On an average, a plastic bottle is said to take 450 years to completely degrade and 90 per cent of the bottles are not even recycled. They are simply re-used or dumped in a landfill . Discarded plastic bottles can be put to use in constructing houses, especially in rural areas,” says Prashant.

According to the innovator, the structure is as solid as any house built with traditional material like bricks and steel. “We have not done any studies on the strength of the structure but our experience says that it will last for at least 30 to 35 years. The engineers of IIT, Delhi will be taking up the structural analysis of it very soon,” he adds.

The couple spent close to Rs. 75,000 to complete the recycled bottle house. “In a village, however, the cost can be brought down to just Rs. 30,000. We used costly composite sheets for roofing in Hyderabad. However, in rural areas, we can obtain roofing material locally,” says Prashant. How did they get the idea of constructing such a house? “We came across similar instances in Africa where people used discarded plastic bottles to construct houses. Due to its minimalistic design, the concept has a lot of potential in both rural and urban regions,” says Aruna.

Collecting discarded plastic bottles is a huge task and the duo had to procure them from scrap dealers. “We had to pay Rs.1 for each bottle. We have now opened a discarded plastic bottle collection centre at our home and asked neighbours to donate them instead of throwing them away. A single cement brick will cost no less than Rs.10 and a red brick costs Rs.5 but discarded bottles are a far cheaper option,” she points out.

You can read more at the website www.bamboohouseindia.org.

The structure is as solid as any house built with traditional bricks and steel. We think it could easily last 30-35 years.