Plastic, fly ash upcycled into eco-bricks

June 06, 2023

Plastic, fly ash upcycled into eco-bricks
(Left) A brickmaker from Toledo City, Cebu inspects shredded plastic waste before it is mixed with fly ash and concrete to produce eco-bricks and eco-pavers. (Center) Using a mechanical molder, the formed brick is carefully removed to be set aside to dry. A brickmaker demonstrates how environmentally friendly eco-bricks and eco-pavers are produced that are almost nine times stronger than traditional hollow blocks. (Right) Over at Therma South’s host community in Barangay Binugao in Davao, a worker adds to the day’s production of eco-pavers that are almost nine times stronger than traditional hollow blocks.

The subsidiaries of Aboitiz Power Corporation (AboitizPower), along with the Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (Aboitiz Foundation), give new life to solid waste with its Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities through Kaibigans, or BRICK Hub project, which upcycles plastic waste and coal plant ash byproducts into high-value eco-bricks and eco-pavers.

Host communities are encouraged to collect and give their plastic waste via collection points and eco-stores, where bags of plastic sachets — like those from shampoo and coffee products — can be traded in for sacks of rice or school supplies. The BRICK Hub then purchases the plastic from these venues.

Aside from promoting sustainable practices, the BRICK Hub also provides livelihood, as people in the community are hired to produce the eco-bricks and eco-pavers. Barangays Binugao and Inawayan in Davao del Sur and barangays Bato, Awihao, and Cabitoonan in Toledo City, Cebu are its beneficiaries.

Green Antz Builders, Inc. (Green Antz) is the social enterprise that serves as the project’s technical partner, having provided the eco-brick model and the necessary skills training to become brick makers and installers.

About 100 plastic sachets are mixed with fly ash and a special mixture by Green Antz to produce an eco-brick, which is actually nine times stronger than the typical hollow block.

AboitizPower’s Therma South, Inc. (TSI) and Therma Visayas, Inc. (TVI) efficiently recover ash particles resulting from its process of electricity generation, and supply the ash for free to the respective operators of the BRICK Hub in their community.

These are the United Kaibigan Multipurpose Cooperative and Income Credit Cooperative supported by TSI, and the Toledo United Farmers, Fishermen and Women Workers, or Tuffwow, helped by TVI. These cooperatives are also in charge of selling the green products.

The fly ash acts as a 50% substitute for the typically more expensive cement, hence, driving down the cost of production. It is also used for filling and finishing so the price per square meter is lower than standard building supplies.

TSI and TVI helped set up their iterations of the project in 2021 and 2022, respectively, with the Aboitiz Foundation providing funding for site development. Moving forward, the power plants will also assist in expanding the BRICK Hubs’ partners and linkages, including the exploration of research and development initiatives for more sustainable construction materials.

Given the resilience of eco-bricks and eco-pavers, as well as its positive contribution to solid waste management, some local government units have also shown interest in replicating the BRICK Hub in support of rapid infrastructure development in their localities.

TSI operates the 300-megawatt (MW) Davao baseload power plant located in Binugao, Toril, Davao City, while TVI runs the 340-MW Toledo power plant in barangay Bato, Toledo City. Both coal-fired facilities built the first coal domes in the country. This structure safely stores coal deposits and prevents dust pollution caused by its combustion.

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