Many people wouldn’t think that the simple act of reusing trash can have a significant impact on the world other than environmentally. But surprisingly, reusing trash and plastic can actually help those experiencing homelessness.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, only 32% of all waste is recycled in the U.S, that is 94 million tons out of a total of 292.4 million tons of waste generated each year. The overconsumption of plastic is a pressing issue in America as ReuseThisBag.com estimates that 2.5 million plastic bottles are used every hour. Furthermore, plastic tends to harm the environment as well with 80% of ocean pollution in the world being composed of plastic waste. Plastic is used at an alarming rate in America and reusing and recycling is incredibly important to help protect our environment; furthermore, it has actually been found that reusing plastic waste and trash can help solve homelessness.
For example, empty plastic bottles are being used to construct homes. This concept has become increasingly popular in Africa, South and Central America, and Eastern Europe. The Developmental Association for Renewable Energies has also begun to construct these homes in Nigeria, which is estimated to need 16 million new homes to end homelessness. These homes are essentially composed of walls of plastic bottles, which are filled with sand, then stacked side-by-side and sealed in with mud or cement to create a sturdy wall. While it may not seem that durable to have a house made of plastic bottles, The Borgen Project states that the finishing structure is actually “20 times stronger than a brick-based house.” Furthermore, the Borgen Project claims that these homes “not only provide environmental protection and durability, but they are also fire-proof, earthquake-proof, and bulletproof.”
In total, 14,000 plastic bottles are required to make a 1,200-square-foot house; as 2.5 million plastic bottles are estimated to be used every hour in America, there would be no shortage of supplies for creating these homes. Approximately 179 homes could be constructed every hour with the plastic bottle usage in America. These homes are a great solution to homelessness as they not only reduce the amount of harmful plastic waste and pollution in the world, but also provide long-term shelters to those in need. The Borgen Project states that “with about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating per every square mile in the world’s oceans, [plastic bottles can] provide permanent housing for the 1 billion people facing homelessness globally while helping lesson humanity’s plastic problem.”
Moreover, worn-out valuables have been reused to help those experiencing homelessness. According to Smart Cities Dive, Artist Gregory Kloehn has found a way to “give immediate shelter and safety to those sleeping on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area.” He does so by creating mobile shelters for those experiencing homelessness using discarded material from dumpsters. Kloehn upcycled trash from dumpsters into components for his shelters which include material from showers, bike reflectors, and even washing machine windows. His designs are environmentally sturdy and have even been used as shop vendors. Furthermore, an organization known as Scrap4Homes utilizes thrown out appliances and valuables to provide financial support for homeless shelters and programs. The Homeless Voice shows that by refurbishing and reselling donated appliances, Scrap4Homes are able to raise funds towards resources for the unhoused. They also provide free recycling pick up, which encourages more households to recycle, and services to remove and recycle scrap metal for additional funding. These materials being thrown out can truly make a difference when it comes to the issue of homelessness by being made into housing and recycled for funding resources.
Overall, reusing trash can have a huge impact on homelessness. Something as simple and overlooked as trash, can be used to help create sturdy, reliable homes for the homeless. Not only can trash help end homelessness, but the act of reusing trash can help save the environment from plastic pollution, deeming this a vital strategy to implement for protecting both those experiencing homelessness and the world.