Unconventional Use of Plastic Waste in Architecture

plastic waste

Plastics are among the foremost versatile materials alive. Defined by their plasticity, they need long carbon chains called polymers at their backbone and may be molded, extruded, or cast into any desired shape from films to textile fibres.

They can be divided into thermosetting plastics, which never soften once moulded, and thermoplastics, which may be melted and reshaped, making them more suited to recycling.

Plastics as a Co-product of Fossil Fuels

Although certain plastics–like rubber, which springs from the India-rubber tree – occur naturally, the latest plastics are synthetic and quite 99 percent are derived from fossil fuels.

This helps to form plastics cheaper than most other materials and sees them used to create many tonnes of single-use items per annum.

Dumping Plastic Waste

This refining process yields not just fuels such as gasoline and kerosene, but also chemical by-products such as ethylene and propylene, which are the most important feedstocks used to create plastics.

Once discarded, 79 percent of all plastic waste is dumped in landfills or within the environment, where it’ll remain for thousands of years. Although this contributes to pollution, it also helps to sequester the carbon contained in the materials and prevents them from entering the atmosphere.

12 percent of all plastic waste is incinerated. When incinerated, this carbon is emitted as carbon dioxide. Taken together, plastic production and incineration were liable for quite 850 million metric plenty of greenhouse-gas emissions in 2019.

However, with growing efforts to decarbonize the economy, non-fossil alternatives are being developed in a bid to meet the ever-increasing demand for plastics more sustainably.

Let’s discuss some of the unconventional uses of plastic in the architecture and construction industry.

Unconventional Use of Plastic in Construction

Use of Fibreglass

Also referred to as glass-reinforced plastic or GRP, fibreglass is formed by taking thin glass filaments, either loose or woven into cloth, and encasing them within a petrochemical resin.

The material is lighter and stronger than steel while being cheaper and more flexible than carbon fibre. As a result, fibreglass is employed to make products where performance is vital, including skis also because of the rotor blades of helicopters and wind turbines.

Architects have made use of the fabric to make tall, lightweight structures like BIG’s 2016 Serpentine Pavilion, which was formed from 1,900 translucent blocks, and a tubular installation designed by Neri Oxman. It was erected by an army of autonomous robots.

Acrylic as a Substitute for Glass

Acrylic may be a catchall term used to describe a variety of various resins derived from propenoic acid. These are often suspended in water to make paint or spun into fibres which will be wont to make clothing or as precursors for carbon fibre.

When cast into sheets, the thermoplastic is known as plexiglass and is used as a low-cost, shatter-resistant alternative for glass due to its exceptional optical clarity. This application was pioneered during the second war when it had been used to form fighter jet windows and submarine periscopes.


Normally, roads are composed of about 90 per cent rocks, limestone and sand, with roughly 10% bitumen used to bind them. Bitumen is extracted from crude oil. The plastic pellets replace a significant part of the bitumen and can be made from household and commercial waste.

Plasphalt is formed from grains of plastic produced from unsorted plastic waste, which replaces the sand and gravel traditionally utilized in asphalt production. In testing, it was found that asphalt roads were far less vulnerable to wear and tear than traditional asphalt because the asphalt emulsion bonded better with the plastic than with gravel or sand.

Recy Blocks

Recy blocks are made from old plastic bags, which are extremely delicate and difficult to reclaim in any other way. Plastic packaging, Plastic bags and Recycled bags are placed in a heat mould and compressed together to form the blocks. They are too featherlight to act as cargo-bearing walls but can be used to divide up apartments or out-of-door areas.

Plastic Bricks

The innovative local company managed to patent its system of bricks and pillars made from recycled plastic, which is then put together like Lego pieces during a construction system that allows one to build houses up to two stories high in about five days. 

The base material they work with is obtained from popular recyclers and factories that discard plenty of plastic dailies. Using an extrusion process, the plastic is melted and emptied into a final mould, creating a three-kilo brick (6.6 lbs), almost like clay ones with equivalent dimensions. When assembled struggling, the bricks insulate the warmth and have additives that retard combustion. Additionally, their thermoacoustic and earthquake resistance is up to code for Colombia, taking into consideration the country’s high levels of seismic activity.

Examples of Unconventional Use of Plastic

The Cola-bow installation

Designed by Penda, the cola- arc installation is a public art installation made out of further than recycled plastic bottles, which were pleated to produce a shape inspired by the swings of the Coca-Cola totem. 

Designed for the 2nd Beijing University Creation Expo, the installation aims to also serve as a statement against plastic pollution by taking trash and turning it into a sanctum. Further images and engineers’ description after the break.

Plastic House, Dublin

The Plastic House in Dublin, Ireland, is made from polycarbonate and steel. The home is a posh series of interconnected and overlapping spaces. The featherlight plastic structure is the primary source of light in the evening for the house, as inset fittings beget its translucent shells to illuminate in all directions.

More recently, English architecture firm HAL constructed a 35-metre-high swimming pool bridge connecting two buildings in London using giant plexiglass panels. Designer Christophe Gernigon turned the material into suspended hoods for socially distanced dining.

Furniture made up of acrylic can reflect light or disappear into its surroundings, as demonstrated by the see-through counter that Yota Kakuda created for Bake Kitasenju brasserie and Say Architects for the Lika Lab boutique in Hangzhou.


Students oof NYIT just launched a kickstarter crusade to fund a full-scale sanctum using their patented water bottle roofing system the roof is constructed with discarded water bottles that are crushed, lapped, and neutralize like Spanish penstocks. The bottles are also aligned and attached to the roof structure using the shipping pallet, which disassembles into direct Soda Bottle Interface Classes or SodaBIBS.

Serpentine Pavilion, London

Designed by SelgasCano, the 2015 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is constructed from a minimum sword frame wrapped in multi-coloured ETFE —fluorine- grounded plastic — in the form of both wastes and netting. Inspired by the London Underground, the plastic wastes come together in a series of dynamic coverts between the structure’s frame.

Plastic Furniture

Brodie Neill, a designer, has worked with recycled ocean plastic to produce new cabinetwork pieces and use them to produce a cascade installation in a London hostel called Drop in the Ocean, the installation was on show at the Foster Mates- designed ME London hostel as part of the time’s London Design Festival. 

It is intended to encourage people to suppose more precisely about how they contribute to the vast global consumption of plastics, which has redounded in vast quantities of pollution in the world’s abysses. 

The designer first showcased the fabric in 2016, with the Gyro table he presented during the London Design Biennale. A time latterly, he used it to produce a new collection, called Flotsam, which includes a bench and a receptacle-suchlike a coffee table. All three pieces are designed to make the waste material look like a commodity beautiful. 

The Plastic Stool

Sea Stool is formed entirely from plastic recovered from our oceans. Together with original fishers, the plastic is collected and made into a coprolite in the ocean.  

In collaboration with Kieren Jones at the Royal College of Art show in 2011, Studio Swine first introduced the world to the idea of ‘Sea Stool’ and since then, they have simplified the process to build the chairs using a small factory onboard vessel. To encourage others, they released a manual on building chairs too.

Plastic caught in fishing nets or found washed abreast of the shore is sorted consistent with colour and chopped into small bits, then melted at 130 degrees centigrade during a DIY furnace. Some is then squashed between two flat slabs of heavy metal or stone to make the seat, while more is scraped into a mould formed from bent scraps of aluminium. Cooled and solidified by the ocean water, the seat and three legs are then scraped with a knife to tidy the sides and screwed together to make the ocean Chair.

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