A Santa Fe business is looking to change the way buildings are insulated while benefiting the environment in the process. 

According to the founder of Upcycle Santa Fe, compressed plastic is a good insulation material. Now, they are working to fund testing to prove it. 

It’s a mission that started with a few empty plastic bottles.

“First it’s an eco-brick…that where it all began, an eco-brick is a plastic bottle packed full of very soft plastics,” said Hallie Brennan, Community Outreach and Project Coordinator.

But it doesn’t stop there.

“The other form is called Ubuntu-Blox, and that is a bit more full scale. It’s essentially like a hay bale,” Brennan said. 

Officials at Upcycle Santa Fe have been collecting and compressing plastics from around the city. They say both materials make for great insulation and may soon change how buildings are built.

“They can be easily integrated into a framed structure,” said Founder Jo Stodgel.

Their mission is to establish more efficient waste management systems.

“They end up in the landfill or they end up in rivers…and like all roads lead to home, all rivers lead to the ocean. So we have a really big problem with plastics polluting the ocean,” Brennan said. 

Right now, they are raising money to test the eco-bricks and Ubuntu-Blox to see if they can be used as building materials.

“Those tests are studying the r-value, the actual insulation value of these materials, and then studying how quickly they burn in case of a house fire and that’s a flame spread test,” Stodgel said. 

If they pass, they’ll meet building code and can officially be used to insulate full structures.

“We’ll start collecting the plastic waste on a far greater scale, and then we’ll be able to bake the plastics and sell them to contractors,” Brennan said. 

They say a building insulated with this material would be the first of its kind in the U.S. 

The cost of the testing is $7,000. To donate, click here.

Upcycle Santa Fe does have a plastic drop off. They also work with local businesses and have a monthly pick-up service for their plastics.