Home » Edgar Mora | Building Houses with Upcycled Trash

Edgar Mora | Building Houses with Upcycled Trash

Building Houses with Upcycled Trash

by Nolan Hawk

Since 2009, Edgar Mora has led Ecuaplastic, an Ecuador-based company whose “mission is to give a second life to plastic waste, transforming it into high quality items.” Ecuaplastic is more than a mere recycling plant. Specializing in the creation of construction materials, Ecuaplastic is revolutionizing the practice of recycling itself, using the endless creativity of Edgar and his team to turn trash into treasure. 

What Problem Is Ecuaplastic Addressing?

Humanity’s impact on the environment has been a hot topic for decades now, and for good reason. As Edgar explains, “There is plastic floating in the five oceans. There are five immense plastic islands… There is almost no turning back from that. But if we continue to generate waste at the current speed, the sizes of waste islands will be higher than those of inhabitable islands.” 

Edgar’s warning may sound apocalyptic, but from the perspectives of experts, he’s right. According to National Geographic, “The amount of plastic trash that flows into the oceans every year is expected to nearly triple by 2040 to 29 million metric tons.”

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Similarly, BBC reports that, “Of the 8,300 million tons of virgin plastic produced up to the end of 2015, 6,300 million tons have been discarded. Most of that plastic waste is still with us, entombed in landfills or polluting the environment. Microplastics have been found in Antarctic sea ice, in the guts of animals… and in drinking water around the world.”

The same article goes on to describe humanity’s unfortunate dependence on plastics. While ceasing the use of plastics seems like the most obvious solution to the waste problem, it is simply not feasible. Nearly every industry would crumble.

In Ecuador specifically, 90% of plastic waste ends up in landfills. This is what makes Edgar’s work invaluable. Instead of trying to eliminate the use of plastics, he and his team are devising innovative ways to reuse them, thus creating what he refers to as a “circular economy.”

Why Should We Care About Ecuaplastic?

Edgar and his team are not recycling in the traditional sense. Instead, they are upcycling. Upcycling refers to the reusing of waste in such a way as to create an even higher-quality product than it was before. According to EcoFriend, “Recycling requires a lot of energy to convert trash into useful raw material. Upcycling, on the other hand, uses discarded material itself as raw material which eliminates the energy needed to recycle it.”

Of course, proper upcycling requires far more creativity than simply taking bottles and cans to a recycling plant. Through much trial and error, Edgar and his team have found new ways to utilize disposed-of materials. For example, Ecuaplastic has produced boards, planks, beams, and columns from mere sacks of rice and sugar. 

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They have even built entire homes out of upcycled materials. (Currently, an Ecuaplastic home costs $300 to $350 per square meter.)

“We want to eventually create buildings that have zero carbon footprint,” Edgar tells us.

As the company continues to grow, so does its list of clients, who have found that Ecuaplastic’s construction materials are not only environmentally sustainable, but of objectively good quality. 

The Inner Workings of Ecuaplastic

Ecuaplastic began with a modest factory that produced six tons of upcycled product per month. Currently, it produces 100 tons of upcycled product per month. Much of the waste it uses to create products is donated by Tetra Pak (a Swedish-Swiss food processing company that is a huge supporter of Ecuaplastic). However, the majority of Ecuaplastic’s source materials are bought directly from local merchants.

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“We try to buy mainly from the sidewalk recyclers. And at this moment there are 228 recyclers that are paid fair prices so that they can continue to maintain themselves, as they do not have formal jobs,” Edgar tells us. 

Upcycling is no easy process; there is no how-to guide for turning plastic waste into a fully-functioning home. This is where Edgar and his team must put their imaginations to the test, coming up with innovative ways to reuse materials. In this regard, Ecuaplastic are pioneering a new era of sustainability, developing what we can only hope will become the new standard for construction. 

The Societal Benefits of Ecuaplastic Are Scientifically Backed

Ecuaplastic has built alliances with universities across Ecuador. According to Edgar, the Central University of Ecuador even did a study that compared conventional methods of construction with those of Ecuaplastic. The study concluded that Ecuaplastic has the “competitive upper hand.”

Additionally, the UDLA (University of the Americas) even built a house for the Chicago Architectural Biennial using Ecuaplastic products. 

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(Note: According to the Chicago Architectural Biennial’s website, “The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) is dedicated to creating an international forum on architecture and urbanism… CAB’s mission is to engage and inspire professional and public audiences,  highlight the transformative power of architecture and envision a future for the field that is equitable and sustainable.”

Ecuaplastic’s products being displayed at the CAB is a major step towards their methods of construction being adopted globally.)

Why Is Edgar Mora an Everyday Hero?

Many of Edgar Mora’s peers will tell you that he is one of the most inspiring people they have ever known. As Oscar Jara—an architect at Ecuaplastic—says, “For me, Edgar Mora is a hero because of the connection he has with society, with innovation, with academics, as well as his commitment to his family.”

Edgar, on the other hand, does not like to attribute the “hero” role strictly to himself. He acknowledges the hundreds of people who have contributed to Ecuaplastic’s success.

“I myself am not a hero. I am a hero alongside others… We are a group of people that contribute in different ways…”

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CLICK HERE To Watch Rodrigo Pacheco’s Featured Story

Edgar Mora was not born with abilities beyond those of yours or mine, nor was he born into wealth. He is simply a man who educated himself on the world’s problems, and made a conscious decision to try and fix them. No, Ecuaplastic alone will not solve our environmental crisis, but it inches us towards sustainability. Edgar is creating a blueprint for a better future; it is the responsibility of other companies to build off of what he and his team have created.

“If we are going to dedicate ourselves to producing elements that damage the environment, I would demand that companies also be responsible with the treatment of their waste,” he tells us.


It is estimated that 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. Ecuaplastic produces 100 tons of upcycled products per month. Clearly, this alone is not nearly enough to end pollution. And Edgar Mora himself will tell you the same thing.

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However, this does not undermine the heroism that fuels Ecuaplastic. Since 1985, Edgar has worked in the textiles industry. He could have easily held a career that paid well but left him with no fulfillment. His vision of an environmentally conscious future is one that is rooted in a genuine desire to make the world a better place. 

We have been proud to spotlight an innovator like Edgar Mora.


If you’d like to learn more about Ecuaplastic, please view the following resources.

  • Ecuaplastic’s website, which contains links to purchase their construction materials, as well as ways to donate your waste
  • Ecuaplastic’s Instagram page, where you can receive updates on the company and its latest innovations
  • A short, informative video on Ecuaplastic produced by Tetra Pak, a major donor to the company

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