Our hats go off to Dr. David Saiia. While a professor of sustainability and strategic management at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, he found a solution to a developing world roofing problem and the issue of an overabundance of plastic waste. Before Saiia came along with his innovative idea to re-purpose used plastic bottles in Maqui Pacuna, an Ecuadoran nature preserve, the only feasible roofing options for people there were natural thatch and corrugated tin.
When Saiia visited Maqui Picuna, he came up with his idea. He took discarded plastic bottles, cut them into strips and connected them using ultrasonic sealing machines. The result was a clear, plastic, fake thatch roof. It protected against rain, muffled sounds and reused waste materials.
Natural Thatched Roof Drawbacks
Thatch had drawbacks. We’ve talked about the drawback of natural thatch a multitude of times on this blog. During times of drought, people were frequently left homeless when a spark would ignite the thatched roofs. During the rainy season, the thatch would often leak and sometimes collapse from the weight of the wet thatch. Plus, they had to deal with insect infestation and mold. In this specific area, thatched roofs were sometimes replaced annually! Meanwhile
Tin Roof Drawbacks
The other option was corrugated tin roofs. These roofs would often cause the inside of the homes to become unbearable hot. Sure, they were dry, but the tin made the homes feel like ovens. Plus, during rainfall, the sound of tin pelted with raindrops was deafening.
Innovative Plastic Thatch For Developing Areas
The innovative fake thatch roofs made from reused plastic bottles work. Plus, a pretty cool thing ended up happening with the pilot roofing project in Maqui Pacuna. Eventually, dust and dirt accumulated on the fake thatch. This turned the roofs into Naturally Occurring Green Roofs (NOGR’s). In Maqui Pacuna, rare orchids and bromeliads, now grow right on the roofs! Since the soil diffuses the sunlight, it also adds years of life to the roof by blocking UV rays that can degrade lower quality plastics.
Now, Dr. David Saiia is currently the CEO and Co-founder of the Reuse Everything Institute. Saiia and his partner Vannah Le founded the Reuse Everything Institute to promote the plastic-thatch roofing to developing areas of the world.
Obviously, this innovative, fake thatch roofing solution serves a different need and a completely different market than those served by Endureed synthetic thatch roofing shingles. Saiia’s reuse of plastic bottled can provide a roof for these homes that lasts only around 10-15 years. Still, this is significantly longer than the thatch or tin that people in these communities previously used. So, we commend their efforts and accomplishments in developing an inexpensive way to reuse waste materials and improve people’s lives.
Check out the video below to learn more about how the Reuse Everything Institute helps people in developing areas of the world: