Finding Solutions

Taos nonprofit puts plastic to good use in Questa

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 6/18/20

A group in Taos is looking for a solution to the world's plastic dilemma.Members of Taos Initiative for Life Together (TiLT) have banded together to help repurpose old …

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Finding Solutions

Taos nonprofit puts plastic to good use in Questa

Posted

A group in Taos is looking for a solution to the world's plastic dilemma.

Members of Taos Initiative for Life Together (TiLT) have banded together to help repurpose old plastic containers into building materials with the help of Taos architect Doug Eichelberger. Eichelberger is using simple methods to take plastic construction into a new direction.

"The first project I did was with large bales of plastic and paper," Eichelberger said. "The bales were huge and they weighed a lot and it was hard to work with."

Eichelberger took a page out of gabion building for river and stream banks to create a cage which is then stuffed with plastic instead of rocks and compacted to form a ridgid, sturdy block. The cage is made out of 16-foot-long livestock wire panels and cut to whatever size is needed.

The cage is lined with chicken wire and tied together to make rectangular wall-like structures.

Once the skeleton of the structure is completed, the inside is stuffed with compacted plastic and can be set into place wherever needed.

"It was just the connection of the two ideas, using waste plastic because it's such a problem and gabion baskets because its so easy to use," Eichelberger said. "Anyone can make it."

Eichelberger has been presenting his idea to various audiences around Taos including the Taos Regional Landfill Board.

Members of TiLT quickly were drawn to the idea and began working on a project for Questa resident Daniel Herrera, who goes by the name RYNO (Rewire Yourself New Opportunities).

"We started talking with Doug who had this idea about recycling plastic so we came up with this shed idea," RYNO said.

RYNO has been a part of the TiLT group for about three years. Recently, the group drew together an idea to build a garden shed on RYNO's Questa property with Eichelberger's plastic wall idea.

The crew hosted a workshop at the TiLT home location Wednesday (June 10) to get the walls started as RYNO cleared the area for the shed's foundation.

During the workshop, Eichelberger instructed the crew on building the baskets and crushing the plastic.

TiLT director Todd Wynward sourced the plastic from local advocacy group Plastic Free Taos, which collected clean plastic for use in the walls.

"I think that a family of four could take a year's worth of plastic to fill one wall," Wynward said.

Each wall section TiLT constructed had about a 4-foot-long by 5-foot-tall by 1-foot-deep volume of space to be filled with crushed plastic. According to Wynward, it took about 24 trash bags filled with recycled plastic to fill one section of the wall.

Two walls were constructed at the Wednesday workshop while a crew built the remaining wall at the site in Questa.

"It's really encouraging and pretty groundbreaking to have something like this going on in Questa," RYNO said.

Once the foundation was dug and set, the crew began lowering the plastic-stuffed wall panels into place. Once there, they are tied together and filled with more plastic to ensure they are structurally sound and connected.

The chicken wire on the walls will serve as a gripping surface for stucco in the future.

Each panel of wall is made up of three to four pieces of the 16-foot horse wire. Each panel of wire costs roughly $60.

Plastic must be cleaned and dried to avoid mold once the wall is set.

Plastic recycling was recently removed from the Taos Recycling Center after officials at the town of Taos have said that it costs more to bundle and ship the plastic than the load brings in for revenue.

Since then, plastic recycling in Taos is nearly nonexistent except for a small number of private companies. The Taos Recycle Board, made up of members of the Regional Landfill Board, are currently looking for solutions to the issue, but for the time being recycling on a large scale in Taos has halted.

TiLT is a local nonprofit incubator group where ideas may become reality with the help of the community. All work is volunteer and participants can learn the ins and outs of gardening, construction and other methods to better the Taos community.

RYNO's structure will be used as a garden shed for his property but would play a role in his nonprofit helping recovering addicts and those struggling with addiction.

The crew will return Friday (June 19) to complete the structure, which will be the first plastic-filled building in Questa, and possibly in Northern New Mexico.

Find out more about TiLT at taostilt.org.

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