With a vision to upcycle industrial waste from landfills, Binish Desai founded Eco Eclectic Technology in 2016, creating bricks from paper waste to build houses and toilets across India, a country where 40% of the population still defecates in the open, according to the World Bank.
UN estimates show that a staggering 2.4 billion people worldwide continue to lack access to basic sanitation services, including toilets or latrines. To address the dismal sanitary conditions in his country, at only 11, Desai has come up with the first prototype of his signature eco-friendly brick using paper and chewing gum, and has since made it his mission to perfect this eco-friendly building material.
What? P-blocks are hand-pressed from paper sludge, a non-recyclable residue from paper production that traditionally has no value, and a specially formulated gum that’s used as an organic binder to ensure greater durability.
“P-blocks are pest- and fire-resistant, water-absorbent, suitable for earthquake-prone regions, eco-friendly and have a higher compressive strength. They can also be used as a substitute for wood, cement and concrete,” explains Desai. “Research has shown that when compared to traditional bricks, they are also cheaper and less energy-intensive to produce.”
Originally, the bricks were dried in natural sunlight, making the process time-consuming and therefore unsuitable for mass production. To tackle this issue, Desai has switched to a solar power system to enable him to go off-grid.
With wife Dhriti, Desai also heads up Eco Lights Studio, a micro social enterprise which employs underprivileged women to make eco-friendly décor such as lamps and clocks out of textile and paper waste. The inspiration for the venture came from meeting Dina who was protesting Desai’s efforts to build a toilet in her house for fear of not having the means to maintain the facility.
“It is more affordable for us to employ people for this work rather than relying on technology. Instead of having one big factory, we instead have micro factories spread across different villages so that each village can have their own employment source to make these handmade bricks.”
Impact: By producing one lamp, 7kg worth of waste is saved from the landfill and the equivalent of 16kg worth of carbon emissions are prevented from being released into the atmosphere.
Besides industrial paper waste, Desai has also experimented with gypsum, metal and textile waste, as well as secondary sources of paper waste, such as sludge from cardboard and craft paper. Eco Eclectic Technology has to date designed 150 eco-products made up from 40 different types of waste, contributing to recycling 700 tons of industrial waste.
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Based out of Singapore and Indonesia, Trang is in charge of editorial content and strategy for Causeartist in Asia, looking after the media platform’s coverage of the region. In addition to her role at Causeartist, she divides her time managing a global sustainability project for Refinitiv (formerly Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk), as a freelance contributor to publications focused on social and environmental issues, and as a consultant on international development projects on issues ranging from climate change mitigation to education or women’s rights.