Peak Seeker: Plastic Houses Are Oscar Mendez’s Way of Fighting Homelessness

How secure is your housing situation? Maybe you can make the mortgage or rent this month, but for some, any sudden job loss or major medical bill could jeopardize the roof over their heads.

There are currently 564,000 homeless Americans, an estimated 7 million people living “doubled up” with family members or friends and 6.6 million paying at least 50 percent of their income on housing, according to the latest figures from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Oscar Mendez has a solution: Build plastic houses out of trash to provide homes for those in need. Literally, it’s a recycled house.

As mentioned in Kicker Daily News, Mendez — who founded Conceptos Plasticos (or Concept Plastics) in Bogota, Colombia — came up with this creative way to address homelessness while taking a unique opportunity to recycle at the same time. Thanks to a video shared on Facebook (and viewed more than 19 million times to date), Mendez’s concept is promoting awareness of what can be done to help others in an equally eco-conscious and socially conscious manner, to people around the world.

The Need for Housing

Mendez was inspired to do something about the urgent housing crisis in Latin America: as many as 40 percent of people in Latin America, Africa and Asia don’t own a home, observes Better World Solutions, with one in seven people worldwide living in extreme poverty. The prospect of creating plastic houses from recycled waste originated from the need for Colombian musician Fernando Llanos to build his own house because he lived in a remote area of the country. After years of research, Mendez adapted the idea and figured out a way to make bricks from recycled plastics.

A Sustainable Solution

Plastic waste — which can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade — is a big issue in Colombia, where 6,300 tons of waste get tossed into the landfill each year and 12 percent of it (or 750 tons) is plastic. Previously only 100 tons of that get recycled. In addition to increasing the amount of plastic waste recycled in his country, Mendez sees the potential to take this recyclable material and transform it into homes to provide not only shelter, but a sense of pride for displaced people. This concept may also be repurposed for emergency shelter, classrooms and more.

How It Works

Giving new life to discarded plastic, Mendez championed a way to mold Lego-style bricks from tons of plastic and rubber waste that would otherwise pile up in landfills. The bricks are then used to build low-cost but high-quality homes for those who need them. Believe it or not, it takes just five days and four people to complete the building process for a 430-square-foot house, according to the video.

If you’ve ever imagined a world without homelessness, this conscious way to provide housing makes it feel within reach. With a little resourcefulness and a do-good attitude, it is possible to build a better world with plastic.

The Peak Seeker Series highlights notable men and women who, through the use of energy, technology and more, have made a real difference. They’re the renegades of the world, and this periodical highlights that social impact.

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