What do you get when you combine a few engineering, business and art history undergraduates with a passion for sustainability? If you are at the Cove @ UCI Beall Applied Innovation, the answer is Bottle Built.
Bottle Built will provide special waste bins in communities with high levels of plastic pollution – starting in the areas surrounding UC Irvine. From there, collection teams will gather the plastic and send it to treatment facilities to be transformed into buildable materials. The team will then pour the melted plastic into molds of “Lego-like” bricks and send them to various housing administrations and nonprofits that could benefit from them.
These bricks will form the foundations of easy-to-build affordable housing for communities, cities and countries that need it.
“I got out of the BART station [in Northern California]; I just saw this massive tent city,” said Ghanadan. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing that all too often, especially in California. Plastic waste is such a huge issue and people don’t have homes, so what if you used that plastic waste to build homes?”
Bottle Built’s interdisciplinary nature impacts their product design. For example, their bricks, which need to fit perfectly into each other, have gone through several iterations as a result of artistic, engineering and business input. The team uses the 3D printers available at the Cove to create and improve miniature prototypes of these bricks.
Ghanadan built his team exclusively through UCI. He met his Engineering Project Lead and co-founders Octavio Altamirano and Ana Gonzalez through a club on campus – Engineers for a Sustainable World. He met his other co-founder and Social Media Director Jeffrey Mak in a business class. The rest of his team, made up of seven female undergraduate students in STEM, also joined Bottle Built through UCI.
“A lot of people were super interested, especially in a social entrepreneurship kind of field,” said Ghanadan. “It has different goals than a for-profit business.”
The team has also benefited from the Cove’s programs and services available through the Wayfinder Incubator at Applied Innovation, like the Innovation Advisor network. Bottle Built credits their mentor, the late John Lasko, with a lot of their success – including introducing the team to housing administrations as well as forming a potential partnership with a nonprofit based in Los Angeles.
The team hopes to ultimately build a company that serves the international homeless community and alleviates the detrimental effects of plastic waste on the planet.
Learn more about the Wayfinder Incubator.