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Plastic Waste As A Humanitarian Resource

Using plastics from packaging to make humanitarian aid supplies in the field.

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Plastic waste may be designed out of packaging in the long term but there is a massive global problem right now. Our solution is to design high-volume end products with humanitarian applications and pioneer the production methods and technologies in low resource and post disaster contexts. Items such as insulating polymer wool, paving bricks, insulating floor tiles, plastic roof tiles and cavity wall insulation can all be produced from the waste plastics and packaging found all over the world. 

Making useful end products from basic technologies that are replicable globally ensures that markets for waste packaging and plastic emerge and that existing plastic waste is cleaned up simply by creating a demand for the plastics. 

Plastic insulation is made using the Polyfloss plastics recycling process, which turns thermoplastics into a kind of polymer wool with excellent insulating properties. The machine is fully deployable and can be run from a solar panel and LPG gas bottle. 

Plastic tiles for rooves and insulation are created using mixed waste plastics including PET, HDPE, LDPE and PP. These are mixed and compression moulded into a useful shape using simple hand operated machines.

Paving bricks and plastic wall bricks are created using PET plastic mixed with a sand and gravel aggregate and heated. The resulting product is superior in performance, uses less aggregate and is 40% lighter than conventional concrete based alternatives.

All machines involved in creating these products can be constructed locally and cheaply. 

The project is being led by Field Ready Nepal, Nepal Innovation Lab and Rural Development Initiative. 

Idea Title

Humanitarian Plastics

Company / Organization Name

Field Ready, Nepal Innovation Lab, Rural Development Initiative


Where are you / your team located?

United States (Head Office), Nepal, Country Offices Worldwide

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

Field Ready and its partners are working to prevent waste by creating the conditions where discarded plastic packaging, like plastic bottles and bags, are redefined as a resource and therefore collected and re-used. There are a number of technologies particularly suited to this purpose and the desired humanitarian aid-focused end products, all of which we are developing and testing in Nepal.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

This project was initially conceived as a response to endemic plastic waste found throughout rural and urban Nepal in the post earthquake context. Our reconstruction related products are designed to be made where they are needed from locally available plastic waste and form a cheaper and more sustainable alternative than cement based paving and wall bricks. The users are therefore internally displaced people and disaster effected households.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Initially we plan to trial implementation of our technologies and products in rural Nepal. This would be the harshest operating environment and so would illuminate the challenges and learnings required around the technology and techniques.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Scaling will first take the form of deployments in strategic areas (district capitals) around Nepal to establish a production base and localised business models. More products would be developed by local entrepreneurs and distribution deals will be established to ensure that steady demand is guaranteed. Convincing local users to invest in an alternative technology might prove challenging. We would overcome this by training, test evidence and highly visible local trialling.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.
  • Piloting: You have started to implement your solution as a whole with a first set of real users. You may have started to develop a business model for your idea, including identifying key customer segments, relevant partnerships, go-to-market strategy, and draft financials.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

The accelerator program would enable us to develop and conduct full-scale field trials of the technology and techniques for turning waste into useful humanitarian resources in a more rigorous way. The program will also develop sustainable business models around products that use high volumes of waste plastic. Technical product development support and guidance from the Accelerator Program would add significant value to this project.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

After Nepal's earthquake there was a six month import blockade of the country and massive supply chain bottle-necks, meaning shortages of basic building materials. Using waste found in the local area would solve the environmental problem of plastic waste as well as replacing scarce and expensive imported building materials like cement.

Tell us about your work experience

Field Ready is an organization of super-able engineers working to improve humanitarian response through deployment of new and appropriate technologies.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Field Ready is a US registered 501c non-profit organization


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