Bricks are an essential building material in Bangladesh. The country’s steady economic growth and young population in need of housing drove the manufacture and sale of 25 billion bricks in 2015. This market is projected to triple within the next decade.
Unfortunately, 85 percent of Bangladesh’s bricks are manufactured using inefficient coal-fired kilns that generate enormous quantities of black carbon, carbon dioxide and small particulate matter (PM2.5). The annual global radiative forcing generated by the black carbon and greenhouse gases emitted by brick kilns in South Asia is equivalent to that of the entire U.S. passenger car fleet.
Prior efforts to reduce emissions from brick kilns have focused primarily on constructing expensive tunnel kilns with designs similar to kilns in high income countries. These modern kilns generate lower emissions per brick produced, but cost 40 percent more. As a result, they capture less than 15 percent of the market. Consequently, the large majority of bricks are still manufactured in small, inefficient kilns. Transport costs also favor small traditional kilns. Bricks are inexpensive to manufacture, but heavy and so expensive to transport, especially on poorly maintained roads in South Asia. Thus, the market for bricks is dominated by small kilns that manufacture bricks near buyers.
A new way forward
Rather than encourage brick kiln owners to transition to more modern kilns, we offer a suite of progressive interventions to traditional kiln owners that simultaneously reduce emissions and fuel costs, while addressing labor issues. As the kiln upgrades roll out over larger geographic areas, an independent organization will conduct unannounced assessments to evaluate if the upgrades are in place and procedures are being followed. In this way, our interventions will help deliver verified health, environment and social benefits.
We are currently seeking funding to scale up the project in phases.