haitian kids

Two years after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, nearly half a million people are still homeless, living under tarps in refugee camps in terrible conditions. Lack of money, building supplies, expertise and more has meant that the recovery for the Haitian people is moving at a snail’s pace. But with the help of Texas inventor Harvey Lacey and the nonprofit organization Haiti Communitere, Haitian women will soon be turning trash into new, safer homes.

A new invention called UBUBTU-BLOX takes recycling to a whole new level and could revolutionize the cleanup in Haiti, while also providing a way to build affordable, safe housing for the hundreds of thousands of people still homeless.

According to Haiti Communitere, trash is one resource that Haiti has more than enough of, especially since the earthquake which disrupted regular services like trash collection. But inventor Harvey Lacey has devised a way to turn plastic waste—bottles, plastic bags and styrofoam—into lightweight, durable blocks for building homes and other structures.  

Lacey and the Haiti Communitere team are training Haitian women to collect the garbage and then process it into the blocks. The plastic is put into recycled rice bags, then compressed and baled into uniformly sized blocks tied with wire. Not only are these blocks cheap and easy to produce, they’re also incredibly durable, lasting up to an estimated 500 years without breaking down, and much safer than traditional bricks or cinder blocks.

The blocks have been stress tested to withstand conditions simulating a magnitude 8.2 eartquake—more destructive than the one that hit Haiti in 2010—and hurricane-force winds. In addition, if the structure were to collapse, the blocks are much less likely to crush or kill victims because they are so much lighter than traditional building materials, weighing only 1.5 pounds each.

Lacey and Haiti Communitere have begun training their first team of Haitian women to collect the trash, compress the blocks and turn them into housing. Learn how to get involved at the Haiti Communitere website.

image: Official U.S. Navy Imagery