Last week, the island of Luzon in the Philippines was startled by an eruption of the Taal Volcano – one of the most active in the region – displacing thousands of people and blanketing neighboring towns and villages with thick layers of erupted ash and mud.
Following the disaster, the ash-covered city of Binan has turned adversity into opportunity: by mixing volcano ash with plastic trash, residents are creating bricks that will be used to reconstruct communities.
The incentive came as environmental officials in the region tried to come up with a clever, more sustainable response to the country’s persistent problems with pollution and frequent natural disasters. The mayor of Binan asked residents to collect the fine gray ash shrouding homes, cars and roads and put it in sacks to be sent to a state-owned factory. The ash is then combined with sand, cement and discarded plastic to create around 5,000 bricks per day for local building projects damaged since Taal.
Next, the plan is to use the bricks to build the schools, community halls and livelihood centers that have been ravaged by the eruption. Local officials are also considering selling some of the material to interested companies and subsequently donating the proceeds to residents affected by the volcano.