Check out these recycled wonders

(Courtesy quinn.anya/Flickr

Recently, PepsiCo unveiled its new, eco-friendly soda bottle. The bottle, the first of its kind, is made entirely from recycled plant materials: switch grass, pine bark, corn husks, and other materials. It is identical in shape and style to its predecessor and the new plastic is equally priced. PepsiCo plans to launch the product—which ultimately will consist of orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers - with a few hundred thousand bottles in 2012.

The new bottle marks an inevitable (and dare I say it, trendy) departure from our reliance on fossil fuels (most plastic is petroleum based). The message is not, of course, to curb your rampant consumerism, but instead to consume in ways that reduce your carbon footprint. Err, sort of. Ironically, despite the fact that these bottles are made from plant materials, they are not biodegradable or compostable. But they are recyclable…

And that got me thinking. I tend to view discarded plastic bottles, and other man-made materials only in terms of their negative impact, but, what about the other ways these materials can be used? That is, if we're stuck with this trash anyways, how are the materials being used for the better?

Here are some rather ingenious ways the humble plastic bottle and other trash has been up-cycled into something far greater than its initial intended use:

  • Wat Pa Maha Chedio Kaew. Made from more than one million glass bottles, the temple lies roughly 400 miles northeast of Bangkok in the city of Khun Han. Collection of Chang and Heineken bottles began in 1984 when the monks began using discarded bottles to decorate their shelter. As word of the new building material spread, donations of bottles grew until they were able to build the current standing temple. Roughly 1.5 million bottles were used in its construction, and bottle caps play an integral part in design mosaic. Not surprisingly, over time the temple garnered the nickname "Wat Lan Kuad" or "Temple of Million Bottles".
  • Spiral Island. Built by British artist Rishi Sowa, Spiral Island is an artificial floating island near Cancun. The first Spiral Island (66 ft by 54 ft), which Sowa began constructing in 1998, was destroyed by Hurricane Emily in 2005. The island was made by a placing bamboo and plywood platform on top of nets filled with approximately 250,000 discarded plastic bottles. The platform was then covered with sand and plants. It was strong enough to support a two-story home, solar oven, and self-composting toilet. The second Spiral Island (approx. 66 ft. in diameter) was built in 2008 using 100,000 bottles. It contains beaches, a house and solar panels. The island opened for tours in August 2008.
  • The Corona Save the Beach Hotel. Mexican beer king Corona sponsors the Save the Beach Campaign, which aims to recover one European beach each year from human-caused pollution and damage. To gain attention for their campaign, last summer, German artist HA Schult built a two-story hotel in Rome entirely out of trash found on European beaches (12 tons of garbage was used!). The hotel opened for only 3-days, and could accommodate up to 10 people.
  • What do you think about these initiatives? Does a stay in a trash hotel appeal to you? What other "green" projects have you seen on your travels?

    — Madeline Grimes


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