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Bottle schools: utilising trash for the building blocks of education

Bottle schools: utilising trash for the building blocks of education
Source: HugItForward.org

More than 100 Guatemalan schools, built from discarded plastic bottles stuffed with trash that can not be recycled, are helping children get an education while cleaning up the environment.

Bottle schools are built using “eco-bricks” — plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash

While schools are possibly the most important structures we can build, they often go unbuilt solely due to a lack of available construction materials. However, the abundance of discarded plastic bottles has been making all the difference to communities in rural Guatemala.

Since 2009, over 100 schools have been built using this unorthodox but incredible method Entire communities are coming together to build a more sustainable educational infrastructure for their future. Source: Facebook/ThisIsZinc

Since October 2009 communities in Guatemala have completed 116 successful bottle schools

Hug It Forward, co-founded in 2009 by Zach Balle, Heenal Rajani and Joshua Talmon, is a grassroots organisation that helps to empower communities in Guatemala to build “bottle schools”. These are schools built using “eco-bricks” — plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. Entire communities are coming together to build a more sustainable educational infrastructure for their future. 

These bottle school projects are community-led, and it is the community members who volunteer all unskilled labour needed for the construction. 

Since October 2009, communities in Guatemala have completed 116 successful bottle school projects, at an average cost of $6,500 (€5,310/£4,637) per classroom. In May 2012 the charity completed its first project outside Guatemala, in El Salvador.

Before Hug It Forward will issue any funding for materials, many community meetings take place, the community must complete the application process, and the community has to collect at least half of the 6,500 plastic bottles required for construction of their new bottle school, and stuff them with inorganic waste from their immediate environment. 

The local municipality then pays for the two skilled masons needed to build the school, and the Ministry of Education pays for all teachers, ensuring that these institutions also have a stake in the project.

Source: SculptTheFuture.org

Since October 2009, communities in Guatemala have completed 116 successful bottle school projects
It takes around 6,500 eco-bricks to build a two-classroom school Since October 2009, communities in Guatemala have completed 116 successful bottle school projects Source: HugItForward.org

What is a Bottle School?

A Bottle School is:

  • Green Bottle schools are schools built using plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. 
  • Safe Bottle schools are built using tried and tested post and beam construction. 
  • Solid The foundations, columns and beams are made from concrete reinforced with rebar. 
  • Local The difference with traditional construction is that instead of cinder-blocks, the walls are made using “eco-bricks”
  • Cheap, Clean and Educational Bottle schools are much cheaper to build than traditional schools, they clean up the environment, teach lessons about environmental sustainability, and involve the entire community in their construction, resulting in a sense of pride and ownership.
To make “eco-bricks”, children in the village collect inorganic trash such as plastic bags, chip packets and polystyrene and stuff them into plastic bottles until they are hard like bricks. The eco-bricks are then sandwiched in between chicken wire, and covered with cement to form the walls of the school.

It takes around 6,500 eco-bricks to build a two-classroom school, meaning that everybody in the community has to participate in order to turn the dream of a bottle school into reality. The entire community has ownership because they build the bottle school with their own hands, and children of all ages will be able to say something that no child in a developed country can say: “I built my school.”
Hug It Forward also strives to raise awareness in developed countries about trash, consumption and the power of community. They say this mission is equally as important to them as facilitating the construction of bottle schools in developing countries.

‘Our goal is to share the bottle school technology so that anybody anywhere in the world can create their own bottle school, wherever there is a need. 

‘To further the realization of this goal, Hug It Forward volunteers have created a Bottle School Manual, which is a free open source step-by-step guide to constructing a bottle school in your community.’

Source: HugItForward

To make “eco-bricks”, children in the village collect inorganic trash such as plastic bags, chip packets and polystyrene and stuff them into plastic bottles until they are hard like bricks.
Eco-bricks To make “eco-bricks”, children in the village collect inorganic trash such as plastic bags, chip packets and polystyrene and stuff them into plastic bottles until they are hard like bricks. Source: HugItForward.org
Make an Impact

Hug It Forward Bottle Schools — Get involved!

Donate to bottle schools, go on a Voluntourism Trip, spread the word! There are lots of ways you can get involved with helping more communities build more bottle schools – the only limit is your imagination! Here are just some suggestions.