Engineering students from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. are working on a recycling project to help earthquake victims in Haiti rebuild homes from plastic waste, according to recent news reports.
Nikki Larson, an associate professor of engineering technology, and six of her students are researching to find the best way to create small homes from the plastic waste that litters the earthquake-ravaged island, according to an article published on Monday by The Bellingham Herald.
More than half a million people who were displaced in the 2010 earthquake are still homeless, Larson told the paper. And since the island doesn’t have a garbage service, importing building materials to reconstruct shattered villages could do more harm than good.
Without trash collection or recycling, plastic waste overflows into streets and waterways – making it a readily-available material, Larson told the paper.
The system discussed by Larson and her students involves hiring unemployed Haitians to collect plastic waste, manufacture it to make walls, roofs and beams and use the materials to build homes, Larsen told the paper.
“Some other groups have tried to use plastics as building blocks, but in much different ways than what we’re working on,” senior Andrew Buriak, one of the students working on the project, told The Bellingham Herald. “It’s exciting to think of helping people in Haiti in a way that hasn’t been done before…It would be exciting to teach people how to build their own houses.”
Larsen and her students hope to visit Haiti this summer to continue work on the project, according to the article.