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Youths at work on their building blocks. Youths at work on their building blocks.

With recycled materials, youths build a room for fellow student

Old, unwanted books are mixed with sand and cement to create building blocks

Students at a secondary school in Sonora have invented a building block made of recycled materials with which they plan to annex a bedroom onto the house of a fellow classmate from a low-income family.

Calling their ecology club Jóvenes Delfines (Dolphin Youth), the students from the coastal town of Bahía de Kino, Sonora, created Confib (from the Spanish words for “fibrous concrete”), a block made from recycled paper, sand and cement.

Their biology teacher, José Valenzuela, has worked on the project with several generations of students for over 10 years. He said that they get the paper from former students who donate old books and notebooks they no longer use.

“We tear the books up with our hands and then we soak them in water. Then we put this into a type of blender we created ourselves. After that, we filter out the residues and mix it with sand and cement. We use around 15 textbooks to make 20 blocks,” said Valenzuela.

The student for whom they plan to build a new bedroom is Ángel, whose entire family lives in a crowded one-room house.

“Ángel comes from a low-income family. … My students told me last year about the needs of their classmate. We went to visit his father and proposed the idea of building a new room based on our project,” said Valenzuela.

He and his team of students currently have around 40% of the materials they need to build a room for Ángel. They will need about 3,000 more blocks to begin building, and Valenzuela is confident that they will reach their goal, despite a lack of funds and materials.

The main obstacle is the cement, as it is the most expensive material to obtain. Valenzuela hopes other institutions will join them to expand the project and make the blocks a more viable construction material option in the region.

“What we’re proposing … is for other institutions to come and take advantage of our area, which has a rich ecosystem,” he said.

Jóvenes Delfines boasts a membership of about 20 students. They said they chose the name “because we are from a fishing region and dolphins are one of the most intelligent animals in the world.”

Source: El Universal (sp)

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