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Benedictine Volunteers build a library out of trash and bottles Print
Written by Daniel Durken   
Monday, 26 January 2009 00:00

Can you construct a building out of trash-filled bottles? Michael Anderson and Liam Sperl, last year’s Benedictine Volunteers at the Abbey of Jesus Christ Crucified in Esquipulas, Guatemala, decided to try it. They learned that a nearby orphanage called “City of Joy” needed a library and decided to kill the proverbial two birds with one . . . bottle, namely, clean up area trash and build the needed structure. 

We were amazed at how much trash can be forced into a bottle.

Michael and Liam visited local schools and talked to classes about the importance of recycling trash and litter, how the students could help and how their efforts would pay off. Using bamboo sticks to force trash into 20-ounce plastic bottles, the students received 25 centavos (about three US cents) for each bottle they filled. The bottles become as tough as rocks.

To pay for the needed bottles and the construction of the building, Michael and Liam raised over $14,000 from their families and friends, with a good portion of that amount raised by Sister Stefanie Weisgram, OSB, a CSB/SJU librarian, along with a $300 grant from Saint John’s University.

Over 4000 bottles were used, amounting to over 2000 pounds of primarily recycled plastic material. The basic construction strategy used the bottles as insulation within an encasement of cement. The structure was made of wood with studs every square meter and chicken wire on both sides of the frame. The filled bottles were secured within the two sides of the chicken wire and cemented over. To insure that the cement stayed in place, the gaps not filled by the bottles were filled with loose assortments of trash.

This year’s Volunteers, Theo Eggermont and Phil Hanson, have purchased a thousand dollars worth of books for the library and added an outdoor shelter to the building. 


"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?' 'Here I am,' I said; 'send me!'", Isaiah 6:8

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