Scientists have developed recyclable plastic-based shelters to help people displaced by natural disasters such as hurricanes.
The environmentally-friendly shelters are being developed and tested by researchers at the University of Bath and plastics company Protomax.
They are cheap, made from recycled waste plastic, which can easily be used again, and are easy to construct, researchers say.
Each shelter measures 3.6 by 4.8 metres, providing a temporary space to shelter or family, or several can be linked together.
One of the recyclable plastic-based shelters at the test site (University of Bath/PA)
Researchers are testing the performance of the shelters at the University of Bath’s Building Research Park in Swindon, Wiltshire.
David Coley, professor of low carbon design at the university, said: “From the milk bottles to the ice-cream tubs we throw away each day, these waste plastics could provide a recyclable shelter solution to those people who have been left without a home.
“The damage plastic causes our oceans and environment is clear to see and by using waste plastic to construct these shelters, we are not only helping put a roof over people’s heads but also playing our own part in reducing the impact of waste plastic.”
More than eight million tonnes of plastic is dumped into oceans each year, with over 90% of sea birds having pieces of plastic in their stomachs.
The shelter’s panels are made from a variety of waste plastics, including those that pollute the oceans.
Researchers say they could easily be stored for decades then transported in flat pack form on pallets, providing millions of people with recyclable and easily deployed shelter.
Nico Stillwell, from Protomax, said: “A shelter built from Storm Board marks a step up in shelter design, from tent to an interim home.
“The weather proof boards provide a level of insulation and security that a tent simply cannot achieve.
“Storm Board has the dual purpose of cleaning up the environment and providing jobs and shelter where it is needed.
“The concept of a mobile ‘factory in a container’ to produce Storm Board where it is needed, for example within a refugee camp, using local resources and manpower is also being developed and tested in conjunction with the University of Bath.”
The work is part of a wider international research project in which the University of Bath team is designing and testing low-cost and easy-to-construct shelters made from sustainable materials for refugees living in extreme climates.