The National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), reported in 2015 that 27.8 percent of Colombia’s population, were living in poverty, with a further 7.9 percent, reportedly in extreme poverty. This includes the homeless.
Another piece research showed that on an average day, Colombia’s capital Bogota dumps approximately 750 tons of plastic. Oscar Andres Mendez Gerardino, took those two statistics and decided to do something about the homeless with the tons of plastic that go to waste, in a story that has caught the attention/admiration of not only his homeland Colombia, but the world as a whole. Oscar is building decent homes using plastic to benefit homeless folks.
How he is doing it
Oscar’s strategy is simple; he collects discarded plastic, melts it and then molds the plastic into bricks which are similar to LEGO pieces. This is the material that is then used to build houses.
By doing this, Oscar actually kills two birds with one stone; reducing the amount of dumped plastic waste and putting a roof over the heads of homeless people.
Oscar, who is only 34, formed his company called Conceptos Plasticos in 2010, and his aim was to reduce informal settlements while getting rid of the plastic problem. At the company’s plant, Oscar uses a process called extrusion where layers of plastic are multi-layered together with rubber and melted. The molten is then placed in a brick like containers when hot and allowed to cool. Once the cooling process is complete, the plastic will have formed solid blocks that are then taken to be used for the construction of houses in the natural areas as bricks.
Housing In Colombia and recycled plastic
The houses are durable, safe, low-cost and of high quality. They can also be broken down easily and built elsewhere if the need arises.
In the South of Colombia, armed conflicts are frequent, and they force families to flee for their lives, leaving everything behind. Oscar says they help those people too with materials to build permanent or temporary shelters.
As of now, Oscar and his company have been able to turn over 300 tons of plastic waste, into building materials. The company has also managed to build over 1,500 square meters of shelters and houses to date, and they plan to do more in the coming years.
Conceptos Plasticos is planning to build around 240 homes per year. This will give around 1,200 people a place to call home. By 2018, they plan to up their game and construct 600 homes a year for around 3,000 poor people.
According to Oscar, this project has had a positive impact socially, economically and environmentally which he calls the triple effect. The results have been evident with the homes, empowering the poor, and the environment has been lifted of the burden of a few hundred tons of plastic, which takes 500 years to degrade.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed with awards going his way, as well as trending on social media with his video being shared over 300,000 times. After Colombia, Oscar plans to spread his wings to the four corners of the world.