Venezuela Invests in Recycled Materials for Housing Construction

On Saturday, Venezuela opened a state-owned factory to recycle used oil pipes into metal framing for construction, and announced it will invest in the production of bricks made partially from recycled paper.

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President Chavez holds up a brick made of
40% recycled paper (Prensa Miraflores).
President Chavez holds up a brick made of 40% recycled paper (Prensa Miraflores).
By James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Mérida, August 31st 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Saturday, Venezuela opened a state-owned factory to recycle used oil pipes into metal framing for construction, and announced it will invest in the production of bricks made partially from recycled paper.

President Hugo Chavez attended the opening of the factory, named the “Kariña Socialist Oil Pipe Recuperation Factory” after a Venezuelan indigenous group, in the eastern state of Anzoátegui.  

“This is a factory that processes used oil pipes, which in the past were lost, they were stolen or sold, or the rich threw them aside and left them lying around,” Chavez said. 

The plant has the capacity to process approximately 250 pipes per day that can be re-molded into frames for houses, barns, garages, and other structures, according to Yuri Pimentel, the president of the state-owned Venezuelan Corporation of Medium Industry.

Pimentel said the state plans to open new pipe processing factories in the eastern state of Monagas by the end of this year, in western Zulia state next year, and possibly in the nation’s capital, Caracas.

“We will provide [the factories] with support so they can greatly expand production,” Pimental said to the press. “It is an ecological product and is much cheaper than traditional materials, given that it is produced from waste material,” he said.

The government is also studying the experience of a group of producers in Zulia state who have found a way to make bricks out of a mix of 40% recycled paper and 60% traditional materials, including cement, sand, and rocks. The blocs are said to make for sturdier buildings because they are more flexible.

President Chavez said the state plans to invest in the project to help expand production of the recycled paper bricks as part of a broader “eco-socialist housing factory” that will encompass the whole supply chain from the collection of paper waste to the distribution of the bricks. He proposed that the production units be based in communal councils, which can then use the bricks to build homes and local community centers.

“In capitalism, everything having to do with housing is a commodity: the cement, rocks, everything becomes more expensive and the majority of the people do not have a way to buy a home. Only with revolutionary methods will we be able to start to solve the drama of housing,” Chavez said.

Following five consecutive years of economic growth between 2004 and 2008, a six quarter recession reduced both public and private sector housing construction. The government is grappling with a growing population and a national housing shortage, as some construction materials have become scarce. Over the last 12 months, cumulative inflation of the wholesale prices of cement, plumbing materials, and construction machinery was 13.6%, 37.8%, and 18.6%, respectively, according to the Central Bank.

The government nationalized the Mexican firm CEMEX, the Swiss firm Holcim, and France’s Lafarge in 2008 in a bid to guarantee the cement supply to the domestic construction market. A program known as “Petrocasa” was launched to build simple homes from PVC pipe filled with cement. Also, the National Assembly reformed a law to make it easier for people to occupy and gain title to vacant urban lands to build homes.