Instructables
Picture of TRASH ROCKS -- Eliminate Unrecyclable Trash
TRASH ROCKS (12).JPG
To make a trash rock, a sack is first sewn out of fishnet.  It is filled with trash and plastered with cement.  The resulting shells are unique in shape and look very natural.  Trash rocks are an esthetically pleasing and constructive way to eliminate trash.

Trash rocks can be used as benches, tables, sculpture bases, landscape accents, and walls. A family living in one location over time could build a castle out of their trash. I would expect trash rocks to have good thermal insulation, useful in both hot and cold climates.

I'm big into recycling and built my whole house out of recycled nylon fishnet and cement, a material I call nylon-cement. For many years I eliminated all my trash right at home using trash rocks. 

Ideally, I would like to see a chemist develop a way to recycle some of our plastic trash and make a mesh material like fishnet out of it that could be plastered with cement. 

Recycling is all about mining trash; converting waste into something useful. If we separate our trash first and put it into separate trash rocks we would know where to look for specific recyclable materials in the future when we need them.  In the meantime, why not enjoy living around all the trash we generate? 
 
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But isn't this just hiding the trash for later?

isn't putting it in a landfill the same?

Thinkenstein (author)  radznjason20118 months ago

We are all just waiting to be compost. Our trash is all just waiting to contaminate the environment, since it may outlast us. We encyst nuclear waste in containers to protect us from it -- for a little while at least. Encysting our trash is a similar strategy. The longer it stays encysted, and useful as fill inside our construction the better the situation for us and the environment, I would say.

One problem with recycling is that it is not always profitable for someone to recycle things. In our system, nobody puts more energy into recycling materials than it is worth to them, so we will always have piles of useless crap building up. I take my useless crap and build with it, even if only as fill material.

The city doesn't really want to haul it away. Our dump is full, and we have to pay another city to take it. That city's dump is filling up rapidly. I live on an island and. Islands have limited dump space. Project far enough into the future and we have an archaeologist's paradise, but a bad life support system.

Got any better strategies?

diy_bloke7 months ago

great
I live in a neighboorhood were most families put out a 250 liter trash bin every other week and a 250 liter greenbin the other week.
still have the old 140 liter trash bin and I last year I put that out twice rather than 26 times. My greenbin I NEVER put out... I have a garden

DIY-Guy8 months ago

Great details!

For me personally I wonder if I'd just be passing off the problem to my children's children, just like the national debt. I watched the movie Wall-E and saw mountains of trash bricks in that vision of the future. A 3D printer seems a better way to use up trash plastic and reduce the purchase of new plastic products at the same time. It's not a solution for everybody though, so make- make- MAKE what you can!

Don't we just keep building over urban areas anyway. What is the difference between building over this and great urban areas built over older layers. I really like this idea. Save the gas to haul it to the dump, the landfill space itself, and it isn't like these materials couldn't be reclaimed as I am sure the elements will break down the and maybe by then we will have better recycling programs in place. We have none where I live.

Thinkenstein (author)  DIY-Guy8 months ago

How does a 3D printer use up trash plastic? I got one recently and it uses new rolls of plastic filament to make things. What I need is a home machine that makes filament rolls from trash plastic, and I don't see that on the market yet.

My trash rock idea does put the problem on hold, hopefully indefinitely in permanent construction. If we are smart, we would separate our trash first, so our children's children know which rocks to mine for clear glass, for example, or various plastics in the future when we are more hard up for used materials.

I mostly see the printers making novelty toys, or decorative oddities; things we don't really need -- generating more mountains of plastic to get rid of eventually. They can maybe make a cell phone case, but they don't include the electronics that go in it.

Todd Gehris9 months ago

This is a future archaeologist's dream. These are like time capsules. :)

I have found out that my nearby Wal-Mart sells nylon netting at about $1 a yard. Given the fact that my college doesnt recycle a LOT of plastic bottles, i think i might have a way to test my island plans!
Please tell me what department that would be in. Fishing? Fabrics? I want to try making some trash rocks and don't have immediate access to fish nets.
Thank you
Thinkenstein (author)  EngineerJakit1 year ago
I take it you think of making a floating island. I have heard of a guy in Mexico who did that on some lake. I don't know if you could get away with that in the states. I hope the bottles don't just escape into the water eventually.

Thinking of the Pacific garbage patch, it would be nice if there was some sort of floating recycling plant that could turn the trash into plasterable mesh trash bags and plastic boats to float float it back to civilization.

Some chemistry student could do big help in the plastic trash problem if he could figure out how to convert plastic trash into mesh material that could be plastered.
Man, this is some neat stuff you've made here! Do you think an island could be made out of this stuff, depending on the methods and materials used?
Thinkenstein (author)  EngineerJakit2 years ago
I made a floating cement trash rock once, filled with sealed plastic bottles. I suppose you could make a floating island, or one that rests on the bottom.
Also regarding the floating trash rock, what would your opinion be on making one thats in the shape of a boat hull? if the right amount of bottles were used, it could be done, yeah?
Thinkenstein (author)  EngineerJakit1 year ago
It would float, like a regular bottle raft. Without a skin over it, though, there would be a lot of turbulence in the surface area -- not like knifing through the water with a solid hull. It would be a boat shaped raft is all.
what if you added a few bottles and some cardboard to give it an angled keel along the bottom of the hull? Depending on how it would be fashioned, the fishnet would have to be cut in a pattern to cover the entirety of the boat itself.
Thinkenstein (author)  EngineerJakit1 year ago
Hm.m.m... a boat made out of soggy cardboard and plastic bottles. That sounds unique. Try it out first in a swimming pool, rather than on the ocean.

Here is an idea that I never tried out:

Shape a boat hull upside-down out of sand, like a sand castle. Sift (flour sifter) dry cement over it and trowel it down while still dry. It then soaks up water from the sand and hardens, making a thin shell of cement on the mold.

Plaster that with nylon-cement and let it harden. Tunnel under the edge and remove the sand. Carefully turn it over, without breaking it, (how, I don't know) and line the inside with aluminum cans, pop top openings taped shut, holes against the hull, cemented in place. That might make a cellular flotation layer. Use light-weight cement, possibly with ground up styrofoam filler, instead of sand, to connect the cans.

If you put cans side by side on the floor, you can actually stand on them without crushing them, so this might strengthen the outer shell considerably.

Experiment small-scale and work up.
mcenerny3 years ago

terrific "ible" I have been pondering making some lightweight boulders but could not settle on the "filler" - trash bottles, etc are a great idea. I am thinking that in lieu of fishnet, you might use the plastic fencing/trellising that comes in various sizes - or plastic screening??
Thinkenstein (author)  mcenerny3 years ago
Fishnet is great because it stretches in all directions. Plastic screening is good for cylinders, but not for balls.

Ideal would be for somebody to figure out a way to recycle some of our trash plastic into a plasterable mesh material.

Used fishnet is a great recycling score, but it's not easy for most people to find. Ideal would be trash sacks all ready for plastering and converting into trash rocks.
uniqueleigh4 years ago
I am curious to know if you have any ideas on what could be used instead of the recycled fishing nets. I understand that the netting, because it is nylon, would last longer than an organic material. I was wondering if (for smaller rocks) one could get away with using the net bags that come from the grocery store holding fruit, onions, etc. or even maybe the netting that is used in cast nets. The ones used for catching bait fish. My kids go through them quite quickly and I always have useless ones laying around. I live in Texas near the water and so I am hoping to get a chance to catch someone that runs a shrimp boat to check into getting some old nets but, would like to do some smaller projects until then. Make smaller rocks to go around the flower garden, stuff like that. That would be better with the smaller nets and that way I can still make up some trash rocks until I find the other netting.
Thinkenstein (author)  uniqueleigh4 years ago
For some projects, fiberglass window screen material works as a substitute for nylon fishnet. It has a finer mesh, and you can make thinner walls with it. I have used it to make a garden retaining wall, and also some minor wall fill-in at a guest house. http://www.instructables.com/id/Garden-Retaining-Wall-plastic-window-screen-and/


thrift store or dumpster dive for old badminton or volleyball nets.
Thinkenstein (author)  tulekah4 years ago
You need a finer mesh to hold a thin layer of cement. With big holes, the cement falls right through.
Thinkenstein (author)  uniqueleigh4 years ago
Onion sacks don't work very well, because the center part is tightly woven for printing on. The throw nets sound like likely candidates. I prefer multi-filament as opposed to mono filament netting. I don't know how well the mono filament would work. Anyway, it's a good idea to start small and get a feel for it. Play it by feel.
tulekah4 years ago
1 how about compacting the trash into near solid blocks or shapes! a bone simple press is a long bar fixed at one end with heavy friend on the other.

2 cover the rocks where they are not going to get stepped or set on with hypertufa-moss mix (martha stewert recipe).

3 set flower pots into the rock, or make depressions, for flowers or ground cover.

4 grottos, hobbit homes, walls made of separate blocks leap to mind.

5 take a drive into the country with friend and gather your building materials by cleaning the roadside.

6 now i know how to make the easter island heads for my front yard!
Thinkenstein (author)  tulekah4 years ago
Compressing the trash is a good idea. Black holes come to mind. The idea is to put it to good use, or make it look pretty if you can't make it go away completely.
skiedra4 years ago
An fine guide, thanks! I stumbled your tutorial to StumbleUpon, hope this will give you more viewers! ;)
Kaiven4 years ago
Floating rock... now that's an idea :D
scmtngirl4 years ago
This is a very clever idea indeed. I have an old crumbling retaining wall made out of wood that needs to be replaced - I've been trying to figure out how to do it inexpensively and out of salvaged materials. It would be interesting to rebuild it out of trash rocks. Thank you for the idea and inspiration!
Thinkenstein (author)  scmtngirl4 years ago
I see trash rocks more for free standing walls, benches, and tables.  As retaining walls, plastering the back side of the rock could be awkward.

If you can get the fishnet for the trash rocks, you can do the job with less material just by plastering the earth with a single layer of nylon-cement.

Lean the wall slightly back, so that back pressure from water won't push it outward.  If there is too much back-pressure the nylon-cement will usually crack and leak, thereby relieving the pressure. 
RETAINING WALL (1).JPGRETAINING WALL.JPG
I'm surprised you didn't use your zipper stairs in the second picture.
Thinkenstein (author)  VampiricPie4 years ago
Standard stairs are pretty much OK for slopes that are not very steep. The stairs in the photo probably have some shape variations that are just not very visible in that angle. The zipper stairs really come in handy on steeper slopes. My stairs tend to have variable intersection angles depending on the slope. As they get steeper, they approach 90 degree intersections more.
Thank you for the lovely pictures. It's hard to believe the first image is not a nature-made rock face! I will post pictures when I find the time to try this out - perhaps sometime this summer. I live in a coastal area (Santa Cruz, CA), so I might be able to score some fishnet from the locals.
Nifty idea! These look good!
I have a couple of questions, though. First, how thick is the cement plaster by the time you're through? Second, have any broken and revealed their hidden contents? Third, how strong are these?

A few more...
What kind of trash do you usually include?
What is styrofoam concrete?
Have you considered crushing glass to use as a concrete ingredient?

Finally, this is a little off subject, but I would like your feedback on it. A couple of years ago, I had some old latex paint and an idea. I mixed the paint with sand. It had the texture of cement and when it dried, it was hard similar to cement, but pigmented with the color of the paint. Have you had any experience with this?

Thanks!

Thinkenstein (author)  rick.leasure4 years ago
I would guess the rock walls are about 1/4 inch thick.  None have ever broken, although occasionally you will find cracks.  The net mesh keeps the pieces in place in case of cracks. 

The strength depends a lot on the shape.  A domed rock might support more weight than a flat top rock would, if one was standing in the center.  If they don't support climbing on, I generally beef them up until they do. 

The trash I usually include:  I burn trash paper.  I don't get newspapers, so the volume is not a lot.  I compost organic scraps.  The city collects empty plastic bottles, but there is a lot of plastic trash nobody wants around here, so that goes into the rocks. 

Aluminum gets recycled.  Iron scraps get warehoused as much as possible, for possible future projects, but the less useful stuff sometimes finds its way into a trash rock. 

Styrofoam concrete is like regular concrete except that rock, and sometimes sand are substituted by different size pieces of Styrofoam.   It is less strong than regular concrete, but also a lot lighter.  It is useful for many projects. 

Although glass could be added to concrete, I hesitate to do that because it might break in the future and be dangerous to work with.  I would rather store it inside trash rocks and mine it at a later date if some good use for it came along.   Perhaps a solar furnace might melt it all down and turn it into glass construction blocks, or skylights. 

Latex paint and cement has been tried, and the resulting material is hard.  I don't have a lot of experience with it, but the sample piece I made was very strong.  There are acrylic fortifiers for cement.   Adding latex may give similar properties to the acrylic.  I'm not familiar with latex and sand, except as a way to make a non-slip painted surface. 
Thank you for your response. So basically, your trash is plastic that you cannot recycle and glass, because you recycle everything else. Makes sense. I was hoping you were able to recycle most of the stuff. Your rocks look good. I'm quite impressed.

Do you have a website that shows other things you have done?
Thinkenstein (author)  rick.leasure4 years ago
My website is  www.angelfire.com/in2/manythings .  I think you'll enjoy what you find.  Glad you like the trash rock idea. 
rhino4 years ago
Is there a reason I cannot use a burlap bag like the ones you make sandbags with?  After all it will be sealed in cement.
Thinkenstein (author)  rhino4 years ago
Burlap will eventually rot away, so I prefer synthetic fiber material.  People have done experimental architecture with burlap and cement, though, and it lasts a good while, especially if it keeps dry.   I saw a wall with it once, overlapping sacks on horizontal strips of wood.   Toward the ground, where it got rain splash, it had rotted out.  Above, it was still good. 
omnivaal4 years ago
Love it. The pics of the weathered ones with plants and moss growing on them look great.
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