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Recycling Beer Cans Into Houses

Posted by Johnine Larsen on July 28, 2017
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I love recycling. I’m not alone in this—Seattle’s recycling rate just hit 60%—but I don’t know many people who have taken it this far.

Back in the 1970s, architect and designer Mike Reynolds made a house from beer and soda cans. A lot of beer and soda cans. It took 70,000 cans, which he collected from roadsides and local bars.

Reynolds wired the cans together to make “bricks,” and then, just like a mason working with real bricks, be used mortar to stack all those cans into walls. In addition to cans, the house also used tires, glass bottles, and other repurposed waste.

Reynolds completed the house in 1972, near Taos, New Mexico. Other people loved the idea, and Reynolds made more homes, turning his recycling/construction endeavor into a standardized model. One of his beer can home cost $25,000 to $30,000 back in the 197os (about $144,000 to $172,000 in today’s economy). That pricetag was about 20 percent less than how much it cost to build a normal home back then.

Those recycled homes didn’t stop with the 1970s. Reynolds now owns a company called Earthship Biotecture which produces modern versions of those early trials. The tagline: “. . . the Earthship is the epitome of sustainable design and construction. No part of sustainable living has been ignored in this ingenious building.” You can live in a pre-built earthship, as they are called, for $500,000 to $1,500,000, depending on the one that catches your eye. Or, if you find a few caches of empty cans, you can always build your own.