Recycling plastic and rubber waste to build houses in Colombia

Published on July 22, 2016

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Oscar Andres Mendez’s business transforms plastic and rubber waste into an alternative construction foundation for permanent and temporary housing, shelters, classrooms, community halls and other buildings. This not only prevents plastic pollution and diverts waste from landfills, it also creates much needed building materials for communities to establish a physical infrastructure. The plastic waste they recycle is melted and poured into a mould to produce plastic blocks that work like Lego pieces, allowing whole communities and families to play a part in the easy constructing of their own homes. The materials contain additives that makes them resistant to fire and because the structure is plastic-based, it is earthquake resistant.

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Their customers are the government, NGOs, Foundations and Private companies, that pay for the housing solution for the communities that they assist. They provide the materials for communities to use and give them training on how to construct their houses using their system.

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A house for one family takes four people, with no construction experience, just five days to build. A shelter for 14 families takes 15 people, with no construction experience, only 10 days to build.

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They generate a strong social impact by helping to build homes and shelters for families with their products, an environmental impact by preventing plastic from going to landfills, reducing water and energy consumption, and also reducing CO2 emissions by using recycled materials. The unique designs of the building elements, based on recycled materials, allows anyone to build quickly, efficiently and cheaply.

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Their construction system is 30% cheaper than traditional systems in rural areas. Conceptos Plasticos helped build a contemporary shelter for 42 families displaced by violence in Guapi, Cauca, in 2015, whilst recycling 200 tons of plastic in the process. The hostel was built using blocks of recovered plastic, it is easy to assemble and disassemble should they need to move the shelter to another area. Last year they created three shelters (1,100 square metres), four houses (40 square metres each) and tehy have 10 more houses (360 square metres) in the licensing process for a community in Cartagena.

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With The Venture funding they could increase their production to multiply their social, environmental and economical impact and therefore provide more low-cost housing for those in rural areas. They would also like to automate our production process and scale their model in Latin America, particularly as the housing deficit is 45 percent in each country, and waste caused by plastic is a serious problem.

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Oscar Andres Mendez, their founder and representative at The Venture Final, is an architect and entrepreneur who grew up in Bogota. He studied architecture at The Pontifical Xavierian University, and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania, both of which have played a fundamental impact in starting Conceptos Plásticos. In addition to Oscar, their core entrepreneurial team consists of Isabel Cristina, Henry, Jesus, and Fernando. They also have plenty of support from a wider team of people who contribute to their business.

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