Tag Archives: bag

BAD Plastic blocks!

We’re making blocks for an event in April.  They want us to have a model house for attendees to experience.

The guys and gals at Allied Waste Recycling Center in Plano, Texas will give me all the plastic I want to make the blocks.  That is too easy and doesn’t make a loud enough of a statement.  All of the curbside recyclers, Allied Waste included, won’t knowingly take styrofoam or film plastics.  Stryofoam and film plastics are destined for the landfill.  If it is put into the recycle bin for curbside recycling it is sorted out and shipped from there to the land fill.  Unless I find it first.

I wade into that stuff and I pull out the styrofoam.  It takes almost a full large garbage bag’s worth to make one block.  They don’t always have it.  But if they do and I’m there I get it, as much as I can.  I stop at a couple of groceries that allow me to pick up the contents of their recycled plastic bag bins.

This is one morning’s haul.  The styrofoam is in the big green bags and the clear bags are full of film plastics from the grocery stores.

The fun starts at the shop.  I take the grocery bags and put four of them together.  Then I fill the bag with pieces of stryofoam.  When the bag is full I tie the ends together, just like they do at the store when you use the bags for your purchases.

The styrofoam won’t stay together as a block without being contained in the bags.  It’s almost serendipity the way it works.  One bad plastic won’t become a good thing without the other, marvelous.  I’ve also found out that one or two of the bags isn’t enough to hold the styrofoam in place during the compaction process.  So we use four bags.

It takes four bags full of styrofoam to make a half block, six to make a full one.  Believe it or not, I ran out of the grocery bags today before I ran out of styrofoam material today.  I also pack in the big pieces of film plastic I get like the shrink wrap and large plastic wrappings and bags thrown away.

This is a large block ready to wire up.

I’ve put in a plea for clean styrofoam dishes like plates, trays, cups, egg cartons, etc online at different places.  I wanted to get some newspaper coverage with a plea for that stuff but it didn’t work out very well.  So if you look up recycling styrofoam in Dallas, Texas hopefully during your search you will find my begging for the bad stuff.  I need about three hundred large bags full for the model house, sorry landfill, you lose, we win.

Progress has been made

It seems like only yesterday while at the same time it seems like it was last year when Ronald Omyonga challenged me to come up with a building product from plastic trash.  The reality is today, February 20, 2011 is day 104.  Less than a hundred days ago I woke up dreaming of making building blocks by baling them like one would bale straw or hay.  Seventy days ago we made our first block.  Today we made our first half block.  Half blocks are just as important as full blocks.

We need half blocks because our full blocks can’t be cut without losing their integrity.  We can’t use standard staggering of blocks to create structural strength without having half blocks.  Now we have a method for making half blocks.

What I wanted was a spacer that would displace half of a block in the recycled plastic block press.  I thought about it for awhile and this is what we have.

A single pin attaches it to the compression plate.  A nail, cotter key, or even a piece of wire is all it takes to hold it in place because the only pressure is the weight of the spacer itself on retraction.

The more I work with this press the more I like it.  I’ve fielded lots of questions about automating it with hydraulics.  I’m using an impact wrench instead of a ratchet to speed up the compression process.  It’s every bit as fast as a hydraulic method and it isn’t near as expensive to build or maintain.  All I need is a compressed air source and an impact wrench and the process goes fast.

Often I get the question about how to hold the small stuff like  plastic bottle caps, medicine bottles, single serving yogurt containers, etc. in the blocks.  I put them in plastic bags and then put the plastic bag into the press.  Here’s a good example of how it works.  I have a large plastic dog food bag.  I also have large pieces of styrofoam that was used in packaging flat screen television sets.  I broke down the styrofoam into pieces about eight to ten inches long.  They were still fat and wide, just not real long.  I put those into the plastic dog food bag.  I put that into the press.  I jumped up and down on the bag to get it to fit into the press.  Then I compressed it along with some bottles and other stuff.  I had a half block.

I like the idea that it takes imagination and skill to properly load the press to make good blocks.  That means some people are going to be better at doing that than others will.  The job of loading the plastic into the press will be a source of growth and pride for those that are good at it.  That’s a very good thing.  I’m not one of those people and I’m okay with that.  Those that find the job of loading the plastic rewarding would probably not like at all doing what makes me happy when it comes to working.

As I said a little earlier, the more I work with this the more I like it.  I’m working on a method for placing the blocks that I believe will not only make the recycled plastic block a good way to build houses, it will make the recycled plastic building block a great way to build houses.