Plastic Bottle Blowing

July 10th, 2006

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We’ve been experimenting with using glassblowing techniques on plastic bottles – without much success so far. Our intent is to invent a means of creating a “New World Bottle” (see previous post on Heineken’s World Bottle) from reused plastic water bottles, which are very abundant here in Lima, due to unsafe tap water, and which are not recycled here. These bottles, if remolded into blocks, and filled with sand, could be a DIY alternative to clay bricks, which cost between 10 and 40 cents each – for a total house price (10’ x 10’ x 8’ high) of $100-$400 for bricks alone. Granted, the margins we’re working in may not make it cheaper to use bottles, but we’d like to give it a try.

The benefit of this is that given the availability of plastic bottles, cheap labor, and sand (many of the slums around Lima are built on sand), people may be able to create the building materials for their own homes.

The problem so far is twofold: heating the bottles evenly is hard to achieve, even while spinning the bottles over a flame, as glassblowers do – and PET plastic shrinks when exposed to heat, so it’s very difficult to “inflate” the heated bottles once they’re soft. So far all we’ve made are the above “miniaturized” bottles. Next we’re going to try sealing the bottles before heating them, so they’ll remain the same volume. We are also trying to maintain better heating, so we may move to some kind of insulated box instead of just the kitchen burner. Maybe a basic brick oven? But costs then begin to rise.

I wonder what a house made of reformed, sand-filled plastic bottles would look like?

Related Posts: Lima Slums, Heineken Beer Bottle Bricks

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