Beautiful Inside and Out – Making Plastic PrettyApril 27, 2016
Yes. It’s true. Bocas del Toro, Panama is no longer a secret. It is on the map, making lists and calling out to the adventure seekers and romantics. It is now a top travel destination, and people are hearing the call and coming by the thousands to this little piece of paradise. Even the newest addition to the island, The Plastic Bottle Village, is getting a lot of attention in the travel news lately with recent articles on websites, blogs, and in newspapers.
The Plastic Bottle Village is the vision of recycling pioneer, Robert Bezeau and his partners. We first spoke with Robert when he was working on his first house. In fact bocasdeltoro.com was the first to report on his wonderful way of turning trash to treasure, (see our article “From Dream to Reality: One Man’s War on Plastic” for all of the information on the ideas and building of the plastic bottle houses and village).
During that first interview, as we were speaking with Robert and in awe of his wonderful creation, one thought was going through our minds, “Yes, it’s a great idea, but how is it going to look? How will they make this fancy and extraordinary?” A thought that is sure to go through the minds of many as they tour through the amazing village built entirely of used plastic bottles. And along comes Justine Catalano with the answer to that very question. It is amazing, the things you can learn sitting with the girls, having a cup of coffee and chatting! This girl is designing her dream home, and it will be made out of plastic bottles.
Justine, and her husband Jeff have partnered up with Robert to get things rolling on the Plastic Bottle Village and its vision for the future, (Be sure to check our next article which will feature Jeff and Robert with a new look on what is happening in the village of dreams.), and they just broke ground on their very own house in the village. Enquiring minds want to know, and we asked Justine just how she was planning on making the house, whose walls contain hundreds of used plastic drink bottles, into a masterpiece. She answered enthusiastically, and she is really excited to see this all come together.
The amazing thing about the houses being built in the plastic bottle village is that there is more than one model to choose from. You can pick your floor plan, and design the entire inside of the house to your liking. It is a way to let your imagination run wild. What you dream, you can have. It is almost like a pizza made to order your favorite way.
Justine shared with us a few of her ideas for the new home that she will be making with husband Jeff and their soon-to-arrive baby girl. She said, “Being a city girl, living an island life, the concept of our interior plastic home is modern-minimalist, with a touch of nature. Jeff and I love the urban loft style merged with nature and cultural influences. Being that the plastic bottle panels will be covered with cement, it is the ideal theme for us. The majority of the furniture in our home will be made from plastic bottle panels. For instance, in our master bedroom, our bed will be a plastic bottle platform structure with a retaining wall. In our kitchen, we will be building a plastic bottle panel island, with wood plank top and cabinets. Our countertop sinks and shower will all be made with plastic bottle panels. The panels are customized to fit any type of design features including curves and special shapes. They will be used as our base platforms and trimmed in natural local hardwoods. With a baby on the way, our home will always be evolving. Although design aesthetics is important in building our home, our outside surrounding is equally important. We want our daughter to play outdoors and be in touch with nature. We will have space to grow a garden, hike through the lush greenery, and see wildlife around us.”
Bocas del Toro is the perfect place to raise a family in the Catalanos’ opinion. Justine said, “Jeff and I love that the islands of Bocas will offer our daughter a place to play outdoors and being surrounded by nature is the norm. Whether it will be surfing with her dad at the beach, going for a walk in the jungle or simply waking up to singing birds or howler monkeys, our family is surrounded with natural beauty, exploration, and calmness. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” still follows in Bocas, another reason why I think Bocas is a great place to raise a family. I am always impressed at how kind and helpful people are when they see me out with my preggo belly, and offering help to open the door or carry a bag of groceries. The island community is more apt to stop and say “hello”, than someone in the states moving at a faster pace and busy on a cell phone.” It is just a simpler, more peaceful way of life here on the islands.
I asked Justine to share with us a quote, or an idea of why the idea of repurposing is so important in this generation, she told me “Don’t throw your future away. Robert, the visionary behind the Plastic Bottle Village, has inspired Jeff and me to see the world in a different way. We realize that some major problems, such as billions of plastic bottles produced, consumed, and discarded every year, could actually be transformed into productive building materials that could create shelter for humanity. We hope to inspire like-minded people to help “change the world without changing the Earth.”
Positive things are happening all around us here on the island, everyday. How incredible that Bocas is leading the way into an incredible future where some of our trash can become our sanctuary.
When you are visiting Bocas, be sure to take a little trip to the Plastic Bottle Village. It is just a few kilometers outside of Bocas town, marked with a sign. Ask for Robert and he will show you around and tell you the story of how his dream became reality. Check back soon for more exciting news from The Plastic Bottle Village!