Ecobrick collection bin set up at Colby Farm Lane

Nathan Gray sets up one of his many collection bins for plastics at Colby Farm Lane

Allies and Partners

NEWBURYPORT — An ecobrick collection bin recently placed outside the gate of the Colby Farm Lane Recycling Center encourages people to create alternative building materials using soft plastics that would otherwise end up in landfills or burned in a trash incinerator.

Nathan Gray, the organizer behind this collection bin, is the founder of House Factory Foundation, a nonprofit seeking to change the housing market with environmentally efficient and affordable housing made from reclaimed materials.

To make an ecobrick, reuse a 16- to-20-ounce plastic bottle, approximately seven to nine inches tall, and stuff it with clean, dry soft plastics. Make sure the bottle is also clean and dry before stuffing it.

Soft plastics include single-use shopping bags, plastic film, straws, cellophane, candy wrappers, chip bags and other packaging.

To fit these plastics into the bottle, clean up any food residue and then cut them up into smaller pieces and stuff them into the bottle. Use a stick around the sides and in the middle to stuff the bottle as tightly as possible.

The ecobrick should be compacted tight like a brick and weigh at least five ounces before it can be donated. Loose plastics are not accepted at these bins; only completed ecobricks.

Once the ecobrick has been filled, screw the cap back on and drop it off at the ecobrick collection bin at 23 Colby Farm Lane.

Other collection bins are located at Unpacked Living, 156 Cabot St., Beverly; Lynn Department of Public Works, 250 Commercial St., Lynn; Marblehead Transfer Station, 5 Woodfin Terrace, Marblehead; MacRae’s Sustainable Goods, 108 Washington St., Marblehead; Salem High School, 77 Wilson St., Salem; and Gray Homestead and Education Center, 345 Dryhill Road, Barrington, New Hampshire.

According to facts written on the collection bin, “Eight million tons of plastic waste enters the ocean from coastal nations each year,” “Plastic litter takes at least 400 years to break down,” and “91% of plastic is not recycled and ends up in landfills or incinerators.”

Though Gray has found ways to work with the single-use plastic problem, he advocates for people to reduce their plastic use in general.

For Halloween, he recommends families make their own costumes or buy secondhand; compost their pumpkins and plant seeds in their gardens; and seek both decorations and trick-or-treat options that are plastic-free.

To learn more about how ecobricks are used or to watch a video on how to make them, visit

Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.

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