Bioplastic may be key to improving refugee housing

February 27, 2023 |

In Bangladesh, several Rohingya refugee families are among the first to use new shelters made of jute and a plant-based plastic from Applied Bioplastics.

Designed to replace shacks usually made of bamboo and tarps, the new shelters even withstood the typhoon that hit the Southeast Asian country in 2022.

The material “is cheap and doesn’t require power to create, and doesn’t require specialized training or equipment, just a few chemicals that are common on the market,” Alex Blum, CEO of Applied Bioplastics, tells Fast Company. “So you can create housing for millions very inexpensively, and in a way that is both environmentally friendly and dignified. We’re not talking about tents; we’re talking about homes.”

Blum stumbled upon the bioplastic while making a movie about the refugee crisis. While in Bangladesh, he met chemist Mubarek Ahmad Khan and convinced him to allow Applied Bioplastics to commercialize the material.

According to Blum, a 150-square-foot home capable of sheltering 10 people costs $1,000. Applied Bioplastics is discussing building additional structures with the United Nations.

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Category: Chemicals & Materials

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