A START-UP business is turning plastic waste into bricks – and empowering people in developing countries to do the same.

Ben Gibbons and Connor Winter run the UK’s first plastic brick workshop from an old Hovis van.

They wash and shred plastic waste, heat it to 250 degrees and push it into a steel mould.

The Wimborne-based business, Greenbrick Workshops, was founded when the pandemic forced both men to return from Nepal, where they had been working with rural communities to reduce the damage caused by plastic pollution.

Mr Gibbons, from Corfe Mullen, and Mr Winter, from Bournemouth, caught the last flight back before the borders closed in March 2020.

Waste plastic is washed and shredded in the workshop, heated to 250 degrees and pushed into a steel mould.

Mr Gibbons said: “We’re lucky to have had a design engineer, Ella Fenwick, join the team to lead prototype development; and as a team, what makes us strong is our connection to a wider community

“What we’re doing was made possible by an open-source network called Precious Plastic, which has enabled us to use an open-source mould for our first prototype. We’re simply refining it to enable it to scale more effectively.”

They are working with non-governmental organisations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique to set up local workshops that can use their technology to build affordable houses. Their ambition is to set up 1,000 workshops in 10 years, preventing around six million tonnes of carbon dioxide which would have been produced by burning plastic or producing clay bricks and cement.

This would also recycle around 800,000 tonnes of plastic which would otherwise have been headed for the ocean.

“The solutions are already out there. Our task is to make sure that everyone has access to them,” said Mr Gibbons.

Greenbrick was funded with a £11,500 loan from YTKO Group’s Outset Finance programme. The programme is a delivery partner of the government’s Start Up Loan scheme.

“Initially, I tried to apply for grants directly, but it’s very difficult to get funding for an idea,” Mr Gibbons said.

Greenbrick is one of more than 22,000 businesses to have been supported by YTKO over a 14-year period.