By Mollie Mansfield
An eco-friendly boffin has started turning plastic waste into bricks for as little as £1 in a bid to cut down pollution.
Dr Karthikeyan Kandan, 40, has invented a brick – constructed using 3D printing and lattice architecture technologies – which is made out of plastic waste.
The brick, which has been proven to provide 10 times better insulation than traditional clay bricks, is believed to be the first of its kind and would cost as little as £1 to mass produce.
The Mechanical Engineer decided to create the brick to help cut down on the amount of plastic that is wasted every day and to provide cheaper, more insulating, housing for developing countries.
Dr Kandan, from Leicester, said: “Single-use plastic packaging is a significant environmental pollutant.
“Every year there is approximately 80 million tonnes of plastic packaging produced, of which 8-12 million tonnes end up in our oceans, where it stays for hundreds of years.
“Once in our oceans, plastic packaging causes chemical pollution that is harmful to wildlife and may also risk human health.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly two million people die in developing countries due to health issues that arise from inadequate housing, while the United Nationals International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights states that the adequate housing is fundamental to improving the living standards among poor and low-income thresholds.
“Without adequate shelter, families lack security and are vulnerable to natural disaster and the chaos of civil conflict.
“Our innovative plastic brick will not only help clean up the plastic pollution in our oceans, it will also empower people in developing countries to build cost-effective sustainable housing.
“Because the plastic brick is made from mixed domestic plastic waste, it is ideal for repurposing mixed recycled materials.
“This will boost and promote the closed loop supply-chain of plastic waste and also vigilantly minimises the plastic pollution.
“Our brick, made from all kinds of domestic plastic waste – from coffee cup lids to plastic bottles – exhibits a tremendous thermal envelope over conventional building materials.
“One of the benefits of this novel plastic brick is that it can drastically reduce both the cost of building and energy-related costs.
“We spent £6 to manufacture the standard plastic brick using 3D printing.
“This could be further reduced to a cost as low as £1 if we were to mass produce the bricks using injection moulding – similar to making plastic water bottles.”
Despite the bricks being made from a 3D printer, Dr Kandan, who lectures at De Montfort University, is confident that they can have an infinite life.
He said: “Single-skin cavity walls with brick cladding is a commonly adopted construction method used to improve the thermal insulation of housing.
“However, the water ingression into the brick cladding still prevails, which means the cavity insulation can be compromised, which can damage decoration, as well as causing fungal decay and long-term issues with damp.
“Water penetration into the brick cladding is related to the local rain and wind conditions, therefore, homes in the higher-risk zones of these conditions are severely affected.
“By comparison, the plastic brick is able to withstand extremes of heat, cold and damp.
“The strength and stiffness of the plastic brick can be tailored to withstand strong wind; thus, it can have an infinite life.
Having just launched his invention, Dr Kandan hopes that the bricks will be mass-produced in the future and used in both developed and developing countries.
He said: “The plastic brick could be used to produce a panel that could be added on to existing brick walls to minimise the energy consumption of the buildings in the developed world.
“There are also opportunities to use the bricks to build 3D printed homes for the developing world population who aspire for affordable and sustainable housing.
“In addition to efficiently managing the building energy envelope, the plastic brick could be used for pedestrian pavements, garden fences and even roof panels.”