MEXICO CITY – An accumulation of glass and plastic bottles mixed with honey, sand, rubbish, linseed oil and milk can be turned into homes for Latin America’s poorest families thanks to a project that is becoming a reality in several countries.
Casas de Botellas (Bottle Houses) is the name given a project that the Bolivian Ingrid Vaca Diez has been promoting for seven years to provide the poorest members of society with the chance to make with their own resources a decent place to live.
Glass and plastic bottles, dirt, livestock blood, cement, lime, sand, batteries, flour and water paste, feces, organic waste, auto tires and glucose become a mixture with which new homes are made.
Such dwellings are called “ecological houses” because they are not only made of inorganic waste but are also built with natural elements that cause no damage to the environment.
Casas de Botellas is a group effort in which the poorest families, with a helping hand from their friends, relatives, neighbors and volunteer workers, learn to construct their own houses and “give themselves and their families a decent place to live,” Ingrid Vaca told Efe.
The project began in Warnes, her hometown, when a little girl called Claudia told her that for a Christmas present she wanted a bedroom of her own, since in her 4-square-meter (43-sq.-ft.) dwelling she shared a bed with five other people.
“Before that I used the bottles I stored in my house for making handicrafts and chairs, but I never thought I’d do anything this great with them. It was when my husband threatened to throw them out and the same afternoon I listened to Claudia that I lost my head and said, this will definitely be a house,” Vaca said.
The house that Ingrid built in collaboration with Claudia’s family, people of the community and volunteers went from 4 to 170 sq. meters (43 to 1,827 sq. ft.) and made use of 36,000 two-liter plastic bottles.
The standard is to use for each meter (yard) approximately 81 bottles filled with throwaway material like paper, plastic bags, batteries, sand and dirt to build the walls of the house.
The bottles are stuck together with bricks, lime and cement, and are held with a kind of webbing to make completely sure the construction will be permanent.
Other materials such as rods, roofing tiles, bricks, gravel, glass for windows, ceramic tiles, wooden frames and furniture for bathrooms and kitchens are donated by companies, individuals and institutions.
The finishing touch for the houses is a coat of paint in which the colors of the columns contrast with the walls, and the bottoms of the bottles remain subtly visible and are painted in the form of flowers.
The families also grow grass, bushes and flowers to create their own gardens.
Up to now Casas de Botellas has built six homes in Bolivia, one in Argentina and two in Uruguay, and in Mexico the first will be built in the coming days at San Pablo, a village in Tlaxcala state.
Twenty more houses are planned to be built in Argentina, and the project is expected to continue collaborating with other communities throughout Latin America.
“Each house represents a dream and wins more than a few smiles, which is my greatest satisfaction,” Vaca Diez said.