Think before you trash it. 

“Sustainability Starts With Responsible Waste Disposal,” goes the saying. But what exactly qualifies as waste? In our homes, offices, and industries, we discard materials for various reasons: after multiple uses, when they reach their expiration date, or even during simple unpacking for storage. But is discarding the only option?

We often treat unwanted or unneeded items as waste, destined for landfills and ultimately the environment. The true cost of this “throw-away” culture is borne by our planet. Dumping waste contaminates soil, waterways, and even the air we breathe. Microplastics, for example, can enter the food chain through ocean pollution, leading to health problems.

Don’t throw cash in the trash 

According to statistical data on waste generation, the more developed a nation is, the more waste it produces; China and the United States have the highest waste generation, and Vietnam has the least waste generation. India, as a country, generates 7% of the world’s waste. When we zoom in on India, we see that the more people live in cities, the more waste they produce; Delhi produces the most, while Ambikapur, in Chhattisgarh, produces the least. 

Waste can be broadly divided into liquid and solid categories. The following is a classification of solid waste that may be of interest:

Construction and demolition waste: 10%

Plastic and Paper Waste: 29%

Electronic Waste: 2%

Fabric Waste: 4%

Glass or Metal Waste: 3%

The current waste management system is far from ideal. In many cases, unwanted materials are simply dumped in uninhabited areas or low-lying locations, creating de facto landfills. As mentioned previously, this practice has severe consequences, contaminating not only the surrounding soil and groundwater but also polluting nearby communities. Most of the types of waste mentioned above can follow the 3 R’s of waste management, which are reduce, Recycle and reuse. Architects can find vested interest in the above-mentioned types of waste in the form of gold, like saying, “One man’s trash is another’s treasure.”

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Statistical Data on Waste Generation_©Irena Twardowska, Herbert E. Allen

A Cleaner Today, A Brighter Tomorrow

What does one infer from the 3 R’s of waste management? The answer is: reduce the amount of waste generated in buildings such as industries, households and workplaces. Reuse the waste in architecture, design and construction. By this, one can say the discarded materials can be used again in their original form or, if not, repurposed in another form for a different function. Recycle the waste for better utilisation, which means that the waste has to be converted to another material that can be used to remake an item or to make something else. 

Let’s explore the Reuse of waste. Reuse can give a new life to a material by adopting it in a unique form, helping to curb waste as well as saving capital on resources which can be preserved for future generations. It also benefits the environment by reducing pollution in water, air and soil. If one sees the reuse socially, it will generate employment for people since one person cannot do it all alone, and one can also set an example for others by using these reused items. 

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3 R’s of Waste Management_© Abhishek Gupta

Give waste a second chance; recycle for a sustainable advance 

One can define waste processing as discarded items or materials being segregated and treated separately as biodegradable and non-biodegradable. The waste that can dissolve within a few years is known as biodegradable waste, and the unwanted or undesired items that take many years to dissolve are known as non-biodegradable waste. Treatment of  non-biodegradable waste such as plastic, electronic waste, construction and demolition waste, a few fabric wastes, etc. is known as waste processing. 

A few of the byproducts of this waste are as follows: 

  1. Plastic waste: mixed light hydrocarbons and naphtha, as well as gaseous products like heavy oil, kerosene, and mixed fuels.
  2. Fabric waste: shredded textile, threads, and dust
  3. Construction and Demolition Waste: Aggregates, Engineered wood, metals, Manufactured sand, paver blocks, Curb stones, and tiles
  4. Glass or Metal waste: Waste glass sludge (WGS) 

Scrap it; don’t trash it. 

The aforementioned waste can be imaginatively incorporated into a variety of architectural elements, such as slabs, in buildings, hospitals, campuses,commercial spaces, and industries, to name a few. For instance, any of the waste materials listed above can be used as filler material in filler slabs, which not only allows for reuse but also develops a new visual language for architecture. Dome and vault construction is another element. Broken tiles can be used as a protective layer for domes, which will not only cool the area beneath them but also add character to the design. Pool walls and floors can be shielded from damage by using broken tiles to fashion lovely floor patterns similar to Indian rangolis. Architects need to find their gold in the trash in order to build world-class structures that will inspire generations to come. As the primary goal of architecture is to create experiences, repurposing materials in design would be a better way to enjoy spaces.  

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Filler Slab: Reuse of Waste Pots_©
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Filler Slab: Reuse of Waste Tiles_©WordPress

Building A Cleaner Future, One Waste At A Time 

Below are a few examples of how the architecture and construction industry is working with unwanted materials to make a difference.

Vegan House (Hernandez, 2020)

Location : Ho Chin Minh City, Vietnam

Architects : Block Architects

Area : 60 sq. m.

The house was a dilapidated terrace adjacent to a 1965 apartment block. The owner, who works in the travel and tourism industry, originally rented the house with the intention of turning it into a cultural hub. The owner of the property wanted to turn this terrace into a gathering place where people could cook traditional vegan Vietnamese food together and host overnight guests. 

From his friends, the client brought all of the abandoned old materials, including furniture like tables, chairs, wardrobes, windows, and lampshades. Given the financial limitations of the proposed project, the architect aimed to combine new and old elements to create a design language that evokes memories of traditional Vietnamese architecture and its rich history, all while complementing contemporary features. An original facade with a distinct personality that captures the rich essence of traditions while fostering harmony between the old and new by utilising old windows in a variety of colours. 

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A12401-Reuse of waste in architectuVegan House: Front Facade_©Quang Tranre
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Vegan House: Front Facade_©Quang Tran

Collage House 

Location : Navi Mumbai, India

Architects : S+PS Architects

Area : 520 sq. m. 

The informal settlements of Chawls and Wadas, as well as the city of Mumbai itself, are known for their resourcefulness, ingenuity, multitasking, frugality, and adaptability. These traits are all reflected in the design of the house. This is an attempt to imitate that atmosphere in the house without romanticising it. Reusing and collage in various forms—from the tangible, which consists of materials and energy, to the intangible, which consists of history, space, and memories—is intended to revitalise the emotional association. 

The front facade features an exposed concrete structure and vintage windows and doors that were restored from city demolition sites to evoke the nostalgia of bygone Mumbai. A pipe wall that integrates with structural columns is created by weaving leftover metal pipes together like bamboo. During the monsoon, the sculpture of spouts created by the rainwater flowing through the pipe is a visual treat for the senses. Repurposed 100-year-old columns form a shaded area on the terrace, which also features a lightweight steel and glass pavilion with a panoramic view of the city. A language that is simultaneously unfamiliar and strangely familiar appears, forcing us to reconsider the definitions of beauty that we take for granted in the world.

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Collage House_©S+PS Architects
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Collage House_©S+PS Architects

Toy House (Abdel, 2024)

Location : Vadakara, Kerala, India

Architects : Wallmakers

Area : 3843 sq. ft.

In recent times, plastic toys have become indispensable in every Indian home, displacing the more traditional wooden toys. As kids grow older and lose interest in these toys, they either wind up in landfills or the ocean after they enter adolescence. Due to their intricate shapes and chemical additions, plastic toys cannot be recycled like other types of plastic and are typically disposed of in landfills. 

Upon being asked to design a home in Vadakara, Kerala—the state with the highest consumption of plastic toys—the Wallmakers architecture firm saw an opportunity to capitalise on these abandoned toys. With the help of Mangalore tiles and compressed stabilised earth blocks (CSEB), they construct a jaali wall made of toys that is supported up to the cantilevered balcony above. The intricate design of these toys, which produce the Venturi Effect by creating a tiny gap between the Mangalore tile and toy when placed, allows this Jaali to cool the verandah behind. This is an inventive method of repurposing currently undesirable items that wind up in landfills.   

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Toy House_©Syam Sreesylam
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Toy House_©Syam Sreesylam

The Ledge (Abdel, 2021)

Location : Peerumedu, Kerala, India

Architects : Wallmakers

Area : 178 sq. m.

The dream sequence that inspired the design of Peeremedu’s “The Ledge” home is perched atop a mountain. The structure is shaped like a shard that seems to be reaching upward, like a mountainous extension. The fast-growing Casuarina poles used for external walls and roofing blend the building in with the surrounding natural landscape. These poles are also commonly used for scaffolding and fencing. The long-span composite Casuarina Ferrocement roof is supported by the Casuariina trees that were planted in the courtyard at the start of construction.  

The SHOBRI Wall (Shuttered Debris Wall) was created by incorporating a large number of small, loose stones that were discovered during the foundation excavation site’s excavation. The walls were then reinforced by alternating RCC bands and debri concrete. The grills are a collage of scrap cable trays and wasted cut pieces of wood that have been assembled together to form the flooring of the house. 

The roof’s Casuarina poles are incredibly well positioned at various levels to serve as both a party area outside with tables and benches. The main focus of this house is still to create a living area that offers the best of both worlds: living on a ledge above the clouds and inside a mountain.

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The Ledge_©Syam Sreesylam
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The Ledge: SHOBRI Wall_©Syam Sreesylam

Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew (Wilderness Temple of the Great Glass Pagoda) (Sunkara, 2018)

Location : Thailand 

Weary of the growing amount of trash in the countryside, Buddhist monks in Sisaket province, northeastern Thailand, started the “100 Beer Bottles on the Wall” challenge in 1984. The monks urged locals to donate their used beer bottles, as well as businesses. The temple’s construction was started and finished in less than two years after a large number of people began donating more empty bottles. Eventually, the collection reached 1.5 million. 

The walkway railings that lead to the temple grounds are also decorated with vibrant bottles. The tiny Red Bull bottles, a regional energy drink, are meant to stand out against the current green beer bottles. The bottle bottoms have been bored into the floors as well, resulting in a smooth, artistic mosaic that is comfortable for bare feet. In addition to saving the monks money that they would have otherwise spent on paint and tiles, this unusual construction assisted in cleaning up the province. In the temple, there is a mural of Lord Buddha made out of beer bottle caps. Buddhism places a strong emphasis on mindfulness, and a trip to this unusual shrine encourages contemplation on the power of a small group of people to affect a community. 

This example shows how reusing materials can result in cost savings and unique designs that embody Buddhist principles and transform trash into beauty and wealth. 

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Beer Bottle Temple_©Alarmy Stock Photo
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Beer Bottle Temple: Bottle Cap Buddha Mural_©Alarmy Stock Photos

The Beehive (Gonzalez, 2018)

Location : Surrey Hills, Australia 

Architects : Luigi Rosselli and Raffello Rosselli 

The beehive investigates the possibilities of redefining and revaluing an underappreciated waste product, such as the commonplace terracotta roof tile. The need to investigate waste stems from the fact that 50% of waste produced in Australia is related to construction, and the materials used in a building’s construction determine its footprint. Reusing materials is by far the most efficient way to build and addresses both of these environmental issues. In order to protect against the intense western sunlight, the project started by researching potential waste materials for sunbreakers, sun shades, or briese soilels. Since terracotta tile is composed of clay and is rarely recycled, it would be the perfect material.  

Because of its strength, the acute course was employed at the bottom to hide the solid spandrels. To lessen visual barriers, eye-level bilateral tiles were used. On top of that, however, because of their low clearance and north-facing angle, diagonal tiles were employed. The small 8-metre-wide frontage of the brise-soleil façade maximises light while filtering the harsh sun. The top level is set back, giving the façade the impression of the two-story warehouse to the south. Aligned with its surroundings, the curved awning offers a generous interface with the street as it rises above the first floor. 

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The Beehive_©Ben Hosking, Prue Ruscoe, Callum Coombe, and Raffaello Rosselli
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The Beehive_©Ben Hosking, Prue Ruscoe, Callum Coombe, and Raffaello Rosselli

Converting Waste Into Opportunities For A Better World 

Mudcrete, also known as mud concrete, is a graceful technique that has been developed by a Bengaluru-based firm to adapt waste from construction and demolition (C&D) projects. 

Construction and demolition (C&D) waste can be a valuable resource. Here, concrete and brick debris are crushed into different sizes, mimicking coarse and fine aggregates used in conventional construction. These recycled materials are then combined with water to create “mudcrete,” a sustainable alternative to traditional concrete.

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Mudcrete Foundation_©Rajesh KAV

Waste as Building Material: Inspiration from Gabion Walls

Conventional gabion wall construction offers a simple yet effective approach to C&D waste recycling. Similar to a metal cage, a framework is built and filled with the processed C&D materials, prioritising both functionality and aesthetics. By incorporating pre-planned building services (like plumbing or electrical), these recycled structures can be both beautiful and functional.

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C&D Waste Gabion Wall: Toilet_© Ant Studio

Vegetable Nursery

Another way to reuse waste is to support plastic bottles that have been reinforced with used fabric or plastic and allow them to take on any desired shape by using bamboo or steel reinforcement. The Vegetable Nursery House by 1+1>2 is one example of this, where the nursery was designed using discarded plastic bottles that were reinforced or supported with bamboo reinforcement.

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Vegetable Nursery_©1+1>2 Architects

Transforming Waste Into A Cleaner Tomorrow 

As the saying goes, “one person’s trash is another’s treasure.” This philosophy holds immense potential for a more sustainable future. By expanding our definition of waste and adopting a more environmentally conscious mindset, we can unlock opportunities to transform discarded materials into valuable resources. Repurposing or recycling these materials as “second life” or raw materials reduces our reliance on virgin resources and minimises environmental impact.  Preserving our planet’s resources is not just for ourselves but for future generations. By embracing sustainable practices like reuse and recycling, we can create a legacy of experiential learning, demonstrating the power of responsible resource management.


  1. Herandez, D. (2020, September 10). Vegan House/Block Architects. Archdaily. Retrieved From:
  2. Archdaily. (2016, April 25). Collage House/S+PS Architects. Archdaily. Retrieved from:
  3. Abdel, H. (2024, March 6). Toy Storey Residence/Wallmakers. Archdaily. Retrieved from:
  4. Abdel, H. (2021, November 16). The Ledge/Wallmakers. Retrieved from:
  5. Sunkara, L. (2018, October 9). This Thai temple was built using 1.5 million beer bottles. Architectural Digest. Retrieved from:
  6. Gonzalez, M. (2018, May 8). The Beehive/Luigi Rosselli + Raffaello Rosselli. Archdaily. Retrieved from:

Image References:

  1. 1_Statistical Data on Waste Generation_Irena Twardowska and Herbert E. Allen
  2. 2_ 3 R’s of Waste Management_ Abhishek Gupta
  3. 3_Filler Slab: Reuse of Waste
  4. 4_ Filler Slab: Reuse of Waste Tiles_WordPress
  5. 5_Vegan House: Front Facade_Quang Tran
  6. 6_Vegan House: Front Facade_Quang Tran
  7. 7_Collage House_S+PS Architects
  8. 8_Collage House_S+PS Architects
  9. 9_Toy House_Syam Sreesylam 
  10. 10_Toy House_Syam Sreesylam
  11. 11_The Ledge_Syam Sreesylam
  12. 12_The Ledge: SHOBRI Wall_Syam Sreesylam
  13. 13_Beer Bottle Temple_Alarmy Stock Photo
  14. 14_ Beer Bottle Temple: Bottle Cap Buddha Mural_Alarmy Stock Photos
  15. 15_The Beehive_Ben Hosking, Prue Ruscoe, Callum Coombe, and Raffaello Rosselli
  16. 16_The Beehive_Ben Hosking, Prue Ruscoe, Callum Coombe, and Raffaello Rosselli
  17. 17_Mudcrete Foundation_Rajesh KAV
  18. 18_C&D Waste Gabion Wall: Toilet_ Ant Studio
  19. 19_Vegetable Nursery_1+1>2 Architects

She is an architectural enthusiast in sustainable architecture and biomimicry. She is also interested in architectural journalism as words speak the thoughts running on your mind when you see art and architecture is a part of it.