Othalo: Building Homes From Plastic Trash
Othalo, a Norwegian building tech startup, is on a mission to solve the world’s plastic pollution crisis as well as the shortage of quality affordable housing by designing homes made out of 100% recycled plastic. In addition to affordable housing, Othalo’s target market includes refugee shelters, temperature-controlled units for storage of food and medicines, and camps (hospitals, schools, temporary living) for disasters and emergency situations.
This year on World Habitat Day, Othalo’s Founder Frank Cato teamed up with the United Nations-Habitat, a program for human settlements and sustainable urban development, and architect Julien De Smedt to help tackle Africa’s housing shortage. Othalo is using its patented technology to develop three demonstration homes in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, and Dakar, the capital of Senegal. This green housing initiative could be a game-changer in sub-Saharan Africa where 160 million affordable homes are needed. This profound number is expected to surge to 360 million by 2050 as a result of rapid urbanization. However, with the amount of plastic waste on this planet, Othalo is confident that one billion houses can be built.
The process of creating Othalo’s upcycled homes involves shredding plastic waste and combining it with other elements, such as non-flammable materials. These materials are used to build up to four floors with a home of 60 square meters using eight tons of recycled plastic. For example, just one production line from Othalo’s factory in Estonia can produce 2,800 housing units annually. This sustainable housing also has other add-on features, such as terraces and covered walkways. By early 2022, Othalo hopes to start mass-producing these upcycled homes.
According to Othalo, “since 1950, more than nine billion tons of plastic have been produced globally, of which only 9% is recycled while almost a billion people live in slums.” UN-Habitat also warns that without the presence of effective urban planning, there will be “dramatic” consequences of rapid urbanization. Some of these consequences include a shortage of proper housing and therefore the presence of more slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, as well as escalating poverty, unemployment, pollution, and health issues, etc.
get unmissable tech in your inbox...