making a plastic house and living in it, is that a good or a bad idea? This family of 4 created and built the first Plastic house in Europe!

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Living good and sustainable in a house made of recycled plastic

Saveplastics introduces a home that’s portable and self-sufficient, produced with local waste plastic. The savehome is the first house that combines the four elements of ‘good green living’: comfort & safety, self-sufficiency, mobility and local circular production. The savehome is a moveable home that does not sacrifice luxury and comfort. The house consists of separate units that can be connected as desired. Thanks to smart placement, good insulation, solar collectors and the latest technologies, the house can be self-sufficient. Where possible, 100% recycled plastic is used. For example, the facade is fully clad in plastic as well as the outdoor terrace. Other materials used are as sustainable as possible.

The save home was designed by Architects Enklaar and Klavers and has been fully calculated according to the applicable standards.

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About plastic and the material efficiency

Plastic is actually a miracle material: it is light, strong, lasts a very long time, doesn’t break easily, keeps food longer, and can have all sorts of properties (think color or pliability). At the same time, some of the advantages of plastic are also a disadvantage. Take the fact that plastic lasts so long: if it ends up in the environment, it stays there for a very long time, with all kinds of harmful consequences for ecosystems and animals. And the fact that plastics are so different makes them difficult to sort and recycle. In this article we explain how plastic recycling works.

First things first: what exactly is plastic?

Plastics consist of so-called polymers: long chains of molecules with lots of carbon. Most plastics (more than 99%) are made from petroleum, but they can also be made from renewable sources. To give plastics a desired property (for example, flexible or hard), other molecules can be added to this carbon chain, which are called additives.

Recycling of plastics

Most plastics are theoretically recyclable. They can be melted down after use and then formed into a new (and thus recycled) product. Some plastics, once they have been shaped, cannot be remelted and are therefore not recyclable. Fortunately, this concerns only 8% of the total production. Plastic recycling and upcycling can also be seen as resource efficiency, instead of just throwing it away.

Since 2010, plastic has been collected separately in central Europe for recycling. In the European Union, the recycling percentage is even less than 50% on average. Worldwide the percentage is still very low: 14% is collected separately and only 5% is recycled. One third of the packaging material is not collected at all and ends up in the environment. This is a major cause of plastic soup on the coast of Southeast Asia. And as many of us know, very often it’s plastic killing animals. Then the other question will be: how much plastic has the ocean cleanup collected. There’s plenty of research on the best technology to get plastic out of the ocean.

Why is plastic bottle recycling important?

Recycling PET bottles and HDPE bottles is a good thing, both economically and environmentally. Less energy is consumed than in the production of new plastic, and fewer raw materials are needed, including petroleum. Moreover, the plastic bottles no longer end up in the residual waste. A double advantage: we pay less and we pollute less! However there are plenty of voices who claim that plastic recycling doesn’t work. Of course one needs to raise the question if recycling is worth it.

The recycling process in a nutshell

Once you have added a plastic package to the PMD waste, it is weighed at the collection station and checked for quality. Lots that contain too much contamination (e.g. from labels or additives) are rejected and go to the incinerator. Batches that are pure enough are compressed and go to a sorting station. There they are sorted by type as best as possible, shredded and melted. Then they are made into granules (small balls) that end up in a new product. Think toys, flower pots, dashboards, garden chairs or pipes. You can also look at it as a recycling symbol. On the other hand, there’s no doubt that plastic recycling is 1 of the top recycling ideas in this day and age. In any case, it will be a continuous business for future entrepreneurs.

So many types, so difficult to recycle

Plastic comes in countless shapes, sizes, colors and flexibility – just think of it and it probably exists. Very convenient for designing exactly the packaging needed, but tricky and expensive to recycle. The multitude of colors, for example, makes it difficult for sorting machines to separate plastics from non-plastics. The different types of plastics (think of a PET bottle versus plastic film) also make plastic recycling difficult: they interfere with each other’s recycling if separation and sorting are not fully successful. It is often the case that recycled plastic is of lower quality than virgin plastic, and partly because of this the demand for recycled plastic is also low.  

What to do, what not to do? How to manage house plastic waste.

Not all plastic packaging is equally easy to recycle. There are many different types of plastic, which are used for the most diverse applications. In order to be recycled efficiently, however, they must be available in sufficient quantities and be of sufficiently high quality. Today, this is the case for two types of plastic packaging, namely plastic bottles made of PET and plastic bottles made of HDPE. The composition of plastic bottles and flasks is known for sure. The recycling of other types of plastic is less interesting ecologically and/or economically.

Biobased, biodegradable, compostable… help!?

Biobased plastic is made from renewable, biological materials, such as cornstarch, sugar cane or vegetable fats and oils. In principle, it has the same properties as plastics made from petroleum and may therefore simply be thrown in the plastic recycling  waste. The advantage of biobased plastic is that it is made from a renewable source (unlike plastic made from petroleum) and that it usually causes fewer greenhouse gas emissions. But biobased plastic also has drawbacks. The raw materials are often produced on agricultural land, and that takes up space. That space could also be used for food production. Moreover, fertilizers and pesticides are used to grow the raw materials. Their production costs energy and their use damages nature and ecosystems. This may impact climate change.

Biodegradable plastics (biodegradable or compostable plastics) are plastics that degrade under the influence of sunlight, moisture or bacteria. They sometimes contain substances that help with degradability. They can be made from either petroleum or biological materials. Because this decomposition occurs virtually under natural conditions, this is not a solution to litter or plastic soup. We also have more trouble than fun with it in the green waste. This is because it only decomposes when it sits in a composter long enough (at least 12 weeks). During this time, the plastic does not completely decompose, but breaks down into smaller pieces that are returned to the environment via compost. Biodegradable plastic is only useful in the bags that are allowed in the kitchen’s organic waste container. This type of plastic does completely decompose and can therefore help to increase the amount of compostable waste collected.