Sustainable Buildings: An Underutilised Potential for Recycled Plastics


On Earth Day 2024, the UIA reflects on the theme “Planet vs Plastics” and how it relates to architecture.

Plastics have radically changed the human lifestyle and the design along the construction. Nevertheless, The United Nations Environment Program report states that each year, the world produces approximately 400 million tons of single-use plastic waste, which constitutes 47% of all plastic waste generated. At this time, Plastic waste is inescapable, but unfortunately, of this substantial quantity, only 9% is recycled globally.

In response to the current global climate challenges of reducing our carbon footprint, the reuse of building materials has been more and more gaining traction over the past decade with the advent of the circular economy.

An architect’s creativity has perceived that using waste plastics as an alternative building material can reduce the environmental footprint. This new approach to designing and fabricating building structures contributes to ensuring environmental sustainability. Architects have introduced examples of reusing plastic waste in architecture through 3D printing, plastic houses, and recycled building blocks. These innovations help decrease energy consumption, carbon emissions, and mass plastic pollution. They demonstrate how sustainable construction can be improved, offering an alternative to the overexploitation of natural resources such as iron, and coarse and fine aggregates, and reducing the environmental impact caused by the global construction sector’s growing demand for raw materials.

However, it cannot be denied that plastic production and use should be limited in the building and human lifestyle to reduce health risks, environmental impacts, and protect the planet.