JUNE 11, 2010: Using Waste Profitably

Using Waste Profitably
SOURCE: The New Vision
By Oyet Okwera
 FORGET the days when consumers of bottled water threw away the bottles. Nowadays, mineral water bottles are being used as building blocks. In Bwetyaba in Kayunga district, bottles have been used to erect a toilet structure.

Stephen Ssemutumba, the founder of Butakoola Village Association for Development (BUVAD), says the first bottle-brick structure in Uganda is the toilet at Bwetyaba Primary School.

At the school, pupils have been taught to pick any mineral water bottles they come across. Ssemutumba says the building initiative stemmed from a survey carried out in June last year.

The survey indicated that many farmers in Kayunga had failed to realise good yields due to factors such as deteriorating soil fertility due to poor disposal of plastics.

"As a result, the association came up with the idea of profitably preserving the environment by reusing water bottles," says Ssemutumba. He adds that the idea was reinforced when John Haley from the US started initiating the programme.

Ssemutumba says the 'bottle-brick' initiative was tested nine years ago in the US. "In the US, people have embraced the technology since it strives to protect the soils and the environment," he adds.

Bottle-brick making

The first step involves collection of bottles and preserving soil. After gathering the bottles, the preserved soil is stuffed in the bottles until they are hard. The hardness is important because it ensures a strong building.

After stuffing the bottles with soil, Michael Kamugisha, a builder, says a smooth foundation is constructed to ensure a firm and stable structure.

Kamugisha says firmness is effected between the bottles by tying strings.

Sand and mud are also used between the bricks.

He says murram is the best since it is the stickiest.

"On the surface of the walls, sand mixed with cement is also used. The hind parts of the bottles are painted with different colours for a décor effect," explains Kamugisha.

Making the joints

Building starts from the foundation and should be proportionate with the size of the bottles. Kamugisha says while building, the same size of bottles should be used.

"When you use different bottle sizes, you are likely to compromise durability of the structure," he says.

Kamugisha advises that the bigger one-litre bottles should be used down and the smaller ones on top.

The objectives

Ssemutumba says the main objective of this technology is to alleviate poverty among the youth.

He says the project commenced with a demonstration to erect a toilet at Bwetyaba Primary School.

"People who wanted to attend the demonstration were asked to bring six empty mineral water bottles. That is how we got the 700 bottles we used to build the toilet," says Ssemutumba.

He says residents acquired skills to construct their own houses using bottle-bricks. Ssemutumba says BUVAD is planning to build the first watertank in Africa made out of bottle-bricks.


David Lugema, a bottle- brick builder, says unlike traditional methods of laying bricks, this technology does not take much time.

He says the technology is also environmentally friendly unlike traditional brick making that involves gauging landscapes, culminating into soil erosion.

"The technology is more resistant to earthquakes than the traditional brick method," says Lugema.

He adds that houses from bottle brick technology are cooler than those made using traditional bricks.


Ssemutumba says collecting enough bottles is a challenge. Sometimes they have to buy the bottle tops. He says in case builders do not stuff hard soils in the bottles, the structure can collapse.