Women in West Africa Are Recycling Plastic Garbage into Bricks for Schoolhouses

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Each year, the world produces over 300 million tons of plastic, much of which quickly goes into the trash where it takes centuries to decompose. In Abidjan, Ivory Coast, women are putting plastic garbage to good use by turning it into bricks to build schools, New York Times reports.

Many women in Abidjan make a living by gathering plastic waste from city streets and selling it to recycling centers. Those same women are now working with a Colombian company to convert the waste into bricks to build schools.

The project will result in hundreds of classrooms to serve about 26,400 students — plus, it’s an opportunity for the women to make a better living.

Many schools in the area are built out of traditional mud-bricks and wood. These buildings require a lot of upkeep, as they easily erode in the sun and rain.

The buildings made out of recycled plastic, on the other hand, will last practically forever. In this context, plastic’s slow decomposition is a benefit.

Also, the country’s classrooms are severely overcrowded, with up to 90 students in each class. Additional classrooms are desperately needed.

Since Abidjan produces about 300 tons of plastic waste a day, there’s plenty of plastic to use. Each classroom takes about five tons of plastic waste.

The company converting the waste, Conceptos Plásticos, initially produced the bricks at a factory in Colombia, but they are now building a factory in Abidjan, which will make the classrooms much cheaper to produce.

Several classrooms are already up and running, and the project plans to deliver 528 total, each of which will fit 50 students.