Ingrid Vaca Diez Builds Houses for Poor in Bolivia Using Plastic Bottles

A Bolivian woman has found a use for the environmental nuisance of plastic bottles–build them into cheap and affordable houses for the poor. It’s a bizarre idea, but it’s doing plenty of good.

Ingrid Vaca Diez of Santa Cruz, Bolivia took note of the impact this harmful product on the environment, and made it her mission to use them to build homes for the poor.

Plastic water bottles happen to be the only resource in abundance throughout the poverty-stricken country. Diez’s life in Santa Cruz is not necessarily one of luxury, but she was motivated to be of service to her community when the  level of impoverished people kept rising.

With roughly 50 percent of Bolivia’s population living below the poverty level, it remains one of the poorest countries in South America. These people are forced to live in sub-standard housing conditions, with no more than a dirt floor to sleep on.

Think about it: that’s 10 million people living in makeshift shacks.

So far, Diez has built 10 homes using recycled plastic bottles filled with dirt instead of using wood. She is a completely self-taught carpenter and designer who chooses her projects based on the urgency of a particular family’s hardship.

“The people I am trying to help are rural, indigenous migrants who are often living in single room, dirt floor shacks,” Diez says. With hardly any funds or support, using the empty plastic bottles was the only way she was able to make these projects possible.

Besides giving back to her community, in the end, this small effort could also help avert a big environmental problem.

It looks like water bottles have come to serve at least some kind of positive purpose.

Could this one day apply to us in the United States?

Approximately 2.5 million water bottles are thrown away in the US every single hour. According to National Geographic, Americans drink more bottled water than any other nation, which amounts to a staggering 29 billion bottles each year! Aside from just the bottle itself being a form of toxic waste, the production of these bottles requires 17 million barrels of oil annually.

That is pretty much comparable to the fuel someone would need to keep 1 million vehicles up and running for 12 months.

The worst part is that many of us don’t even recycle the plastic afterwards. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently reported that only 13 percent actually end up in the recycle bin, which means that a couple million tons of water bottles find their final resting place in a landfill.

Should we look at Vaca Diez’s idea as a solution here? Let us know in the comments below.