Attention MJHS: If you’ve ever wanted to positively impact our environment, here is your chance. Unofficially named “The Bottle Brick Project,” this environment-ally-friendly idea came about when MJHS senior, Mackenzie Hall, heard that the school would no longer be collecting recycling in its classrooms.
After researching about ocean pollution for a Science National Honors Society presentation, Hall began to search for a way to continue recycling at MJHS. The solution she came across involved “bottle bricks,” which are plastic water bottles filled with compacted soft plastics.
“They’re called “bottle bricks” because you have to keep compacting the plastic into the bottles - and you can use something like a wooden spoon to do this - until they’re hard and sturdy like bricks and can be used as building material,” said Hall.
The idea is that these bricks will kill two birds with one stone: they can be used as building material while at the same time they offer a new way of recycling at school. Acceptable materials for the bottles include soft plastics, candy wrappers, grocery bags, chip bags and any sort of plastic wrapping around food.
Hall says that paper products, food products and wet substances cannot be used because they will not last over time.
“It needs to be inorganic materials and non-biodegradable substances because you don’t want the substances to biodegrade. Eventually, after a year or so, the structure will start to falter,” said Hall.
Using these bricks, Hall plans to construct a bench to be placed somewhere on MJHS’s campus where everyone can see and have access to it. She says she’s not sure of the exact spot yet - maybe the senior courtyard or up by the football field - but she’s open to suggestions.
To build the bench, the bottle bricks will act as the skeleton, while mortar or cement will be the glue. Hall says that she would like for the bottles to be seen, so the cement shouldn’t cover the bench completely, but again, the plan has not been finalized.
Another idea for the design of the bench was inspired by the Vol Rock at UTK, which is a giant boulder on campus that the students paint on school event days like game days. Hall plans to talk to the art club here at MJHS to see about adopting this tradition by painting the bench before important rivalry games.
So far, Hall’s plan has been extremely well-received by the MJHS staff, including our principal, Mrs. Rainey. When Hall presented her idea, Mrs. Rainey was very open and excited about the project. Hall, however, did not expect to get as far as she has.
Hall said, “I was worried that people would think it would be difficult, or that it wouldn’t be able to happen at school. They were really willing to help make it happen.”
Hall’s goal is to finish this bench by the end of the school year. Or, if time allows and she collects enough materials, she might try to build more than one bench. Some have even suggested building a picnic table.
About 30 bottles of the estimated 300 that are needed for one two-person bench have been collected, so any help will be greatly appreciated.
“The more people that are involved, the faster it gets done,” said Hall.
If you’d like to help, Hall says that you can donate plastic bottles (around 16 oz is preferred), soft plastics or your own stuffed water bottles to Ms. Morgan in C108, Mrs. Hayes in C122A or any other chemistry lab.
Hall hopes that through this project, more people will become involved in recycling, as it is vital to the health and safety of our environment. She calls this method “lazy recycling,” because even if you’ve never had the motivation to do it, it’s easy and the results are obvious.
Hall said, “This is a way you can get involved and really see the work that you’ve done.”