From Dream to reality: one man warJanuary 12, 2016
They are surrounding us. Slowly day by day they are taking over the world. Nobody really likes them, but most of us use them. There are literally whole islands in the Pacific made from them. They cause numerous deaths to animals, poison the air when made or burned and are almost impossible to get rid of. They will be on this planet even longer than cockroaches. Have you guessed what I am talking about by now? Yes, its plastic bottles, the ones that we get water, juice and soda in. Worldwide people consume approximately 89 BILLION liters of bottled water annually. Broken down into single serving portions, that makes roughly 170 billion bottles thrown away or recycled each year, and that is just bottled water, not including sodas, juice or anything else. “Different kinds of plastic can degrade at different times, but the average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is at least 450 years. It can even take some bottles 1000 years to biodegrade! Bottles made with Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) will never biodegrade.” http://www.postconsumers.com/…/how-long-does-it-take-a-pla…/ And yes, it is the PET bottles that are used for bottled water. Luckily, most of the “first world” countries, who consume a majority of the bottled water, have recycling facilities and programs in place, but just cleaning and separating doesn’t make the problem disappear. “It’s harder to recycle plastic bottles than you think. Of the mass numbers of plastic bottles consumed throughout the world, most of them are not recycled because only certain types of plastic bottles can be recycled by certain municipalities. They either end up lying stagnant in landfills, leaching dangerous chemicals into the ground, or they infiltrate our streets as litter. They are found on sidewalks, in parks, front yards and rivers, and even if you chop them into tiny pieces they still take more than a human lifetime to decompose.” http://www.onegreenplanet.org/…/whats-the-problem-with-plas…. The situation here in Bocas Del Toro is a bit more unique. Visualize this problem in a country that is still considered “third world”, in a place where education, programs and facilities are limited. Then take that and put it on a tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea where it is next to impossible to get the bottles, even when separated and cleaned, off the island to one of the few recycling facilities in all of Panama. Over the last 5 years many have tried different ideas and plans to take the bottles off the island, but always there has been some kind of obstacle and the programs failed. Fortunately, Bocas has people who are green to the bottom of their soul. One such guy is Robert Bezeau, and he has declared war against this plastic nuisance. Originally from Canada, Robert came to Bocas several years ago and has had his hand in many projects throughout this time. He owns a big piece of land a little bit outside of Bocas Town near the new power plant. Since Robert has big machinery, he came up with a recycling program using volunteers as drivers and tried for over a year to successfully implement processes to gather up the PET plastic bottles. Unfortunately due to some conflicts his program had to come to an end before it really thrived. What he collected during this time is a staggering number of bottles. He estimates “that we have here about 1 million bottles that we accumulated during the period of 1.5 years we collected the bottles. That amount is about 40% of reality.” He always knew that he could do something with the bottles; it just took him a while to figure it out. It actually came to him in a dream. Instantly one morning when he awoke he had an image in his mind of what all that plastic could build. Together with his friend Serge, they came up with a plan to use the bottles as walls to build a house. This style is quite unique to the world; many people have used plastic in buildings, but none like this. When you look at it, it really is simple. They came up with a frame, like what a mattress is built with, and filled it with the bottles. Thus, new construction started and the first house is nearly finished. From the outside the home looks almost like every other home because once the frames are built from metal and then filled with all those bottles a fine coat of concrete is sprayed on both the outside and inside and voila a beautiful, livable house. The bottles act as insulation and are an excellent material that is easy to work with. Labor is not as intense as with typical home construction and training people to do the work is not super complicated. The whole thing is really incredible. The house is a very simple construction with 4 exterior walls and a roof with a concrete foundation. It will include electricity and plumbing. The best part of all; over 10 thousand bottles were used to build it, along with some metal, also recycled from other projects around the archipelago. This design is unusual and from research that has been done, there is not another house built like his. He is not planning on applying for a patent, and although his design could probably make him a wealthy man, it is not the money he wants. His wish is to share this with the world. The most urgent thing for him is to educate people about creative and useful ways to recycle plastic bottles on a very large scale. What’s even more impressive is the long term vision that Robert has for this huge project. His eyes light up as he discusses his dream for a plastic free island. He wants people to visit our beautiful Bocas Del Toro and leave with the memory of seeing people working together to keep the planet clean and green. Even though he has applied for approval to build a small residential community filled with water-bottle houses, he would rather see many different types of structures made using his wall design. If you think about it, the possibilities are endless. Because of their original design, lights could be used inside the walls and without a concrete coat it would glow like a brilliant star in the jungle. He would love to include people who have always called Panama their home in his vision. He has dreams of a design contest for budding architects to build a whole community with shops and stores and of course houses. He can even see an incredible castle glowing vividly as people wind their way through his property witnessing the power of recycling and repurposing. Hopefully the right people will see the same vision and with the help of Robert find a better way to keep these evil plastic bottles out of the sea and landfills. While you are visiting Bocas Del Toro, please go and see for yourself the miracle house made of water bottles on the road out of town! Robert will welcome you with open arms and show you the story of how he is keeping Bocas beautiful.