In March 2022, Breadline Africa implemented its Alternate Infrastructure Project to identify and test more environmentally sustainable infrastructure solutions that are appropriate and suitable for the environments in which it works. Earlier this year, the organisation reported on a sandbag structure built at Ilithalethu Educare Centre in Khayelitsha and, last month, an Aventure composite fibreglass structure was placed at Sijongephambili Créche in Strand.
Project Manager, Alex Laugksch, explains that “ideally, we want to build these structures close to Breadline Africa’s head office in Cape Town as this allows for easier monitoring of the long-term suitability of these structures. However, we recently had the opportunity to connect with an innovative start-up company in Gauteng that has patented plastic bricks. We saw this as an opportunity, and we are currently in the process of completing the build of a (recycled) plastic brick classroom for Reitumetse Early Learning Centre in Gauteng.”
Plastic building technology is an ideal way of dealing with one of the world’s largest environmental challenges, viz. plastic pollution, says Alex. “When we explored this option, we looked for a solution that would be strong, durable and, importantly, fire-resistant. In many of the communities in which Breadline Africa works the fire risks are huge as materials used in constructing makeshift classroom facilities are often highly flammable. The plastic bricks being used for the Reitumetse classroom are SANS accredited, comprise 30% inert plastic, soil, and have proprietary additives to ensure effective fire resistance and high durability. The plastic is (partly) collected via a community waste-picking initiative, which creates direct employment opportunities. Indirectly, there are of course also huge benefits for the environment. Less water is also used in the construction of plastic bricks than in conventional cement bricks. As they are less porous than conventional cement bricks, less building maintenance will be required in the long-term, and they have greater insulation properties than cement products. However, what we are most excited about, is that we would be contributing to cleaning up the environment while at the same time creating value from plastic waste. So, we certainly see this project as a win for everyone involved!”
For Breadline Africa, the Alternate Infrastructure Project is an attempt to say that we can do better and that we can – and must – utilise resources in a more responsible way, says Alex. Humans generate 300 million tons of plastic waste per year. Minimising and recycling plastic waste must be high on our list of priorities and Breadline Africa looks forward to handing over its first plastic brick classroom to learners at Reitumetse Early Learning Centre, in June 2022.