The Beer Bottle Temple

In 1984, one monk and his acolytes had grown tired of the mounting litter in the Sisaket area of Thailand near the Cambodian border. To promote recycling and the cleaning of the landscape, the monks encouraged everyone in the area to bring them recycled beer bottles that would be used to build a temple complex. The result was Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew: the Million Bottle Temple.

Using mostly green Heineken and brown Chang (the local favorite) beer bottles, the monks began with a temple and later formed a crematorium, water towers, sleeping quarters and even toilets. Pushed into the concrete of the walls, the recycled bottles—around 1.5 million of them—form every detail of the buildings, inside and out. Aside from whole bottles, the monks also incorporated bottle caps to create mosaics and Buddhist designs inside of the temple.

The story of the temple’s construction states that the local Buddhist monks were seeking a means to help waste disposal and help the local area lead a greener lifestyle. Through the collection of glass beer bottles, it was decided that they could be used as a construction material. They now continue to build using bottles to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to keep the bottles out of landfills.

According to the China Daily, “The Thai Buddhist temple has found an environmentally friendly way to utilize discarded bottles to reach nirvana.”

The main Beer Bottle Temple took two years to construct, but as the materials were still available the site is continually expanded. By 2009 there were more than 1.5 million bottles in use in the construction works at the temple site, leading to Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew also being known as the “Temple of a Million Bottles”. In 2015, it was named one of the ten leading examples of sustainable architecture by travel website When on Earth.

Parenthetically, 50 years ago the Heineken company looked into changing their bottles so that they could be used as building blocks, a construction material. While nothing came of that, the monks found a way

Beer Bottle Temple, Thailand 2

Beer Bottle Temple, Thailand 4

Beer Bottle Temple, Thailand 3