A DIY project is helping communities around the world to reuse their plastic waste instead of just sending it for recycling.
Precious Plastic is a global network of hundreds of people taking a do-it-yourself approach to tackling plastic pollution by setting up shared workspaces where they turn waste into new products.
More than 200 workspaces have been set up since Dave Hakkens started the initiative in the Netherlands in 2013 for his graduation project at Eindhoven’s Design Academy. Blueprints and video tutorials available online under a Creative Commons licence show how to construct and maintain machines, based on modular designs and made of components that can be easily repaired, replaced or customised, using basic materials, tools and parts.
New iterations of the Precious Plastic scheme have appeared at regular intervals, and five years of feedback from participants has helped shape the Version 4 plan issued in September 2018. Objectives for the future include using lasers to scan raw materials and robots for sorting, as well as developing more robust and efficient machine designs.
Going from reclaimed plastic to finished recycled product is a nine-stage process.
Workspace: Precious Plastic says a new facility is currently opening somewhere in the world every week.
Collect: Setting up an efficient collection process for waste plastic that keeps raw materials coming in is the first step in running a successful workspace.
Shred: Plastic is shredded into flakes, which are easier to store, wash, melt, trade and use. Output size and shape can be selected by changing the sieve inside the machine. Flakes should be labelled by type.
Sort: An effective sorting system that separates different types of plastics depending on melting temperatures and other properties is crucial.
Create: Each machine is slightly different but they all work on the same principle: melt, press, cool.
Extrude: Flakes are placed in a hopper and extruded into lines that can be used to make new raw materials such as 3D printing filament.
Inject: Heating flakes and injecting the plastic into a mould is a relatively quick process well suited to creating small objects repeatedly.
Compress: For larger objects, plastic is heated inside an oven and slowly pressed into a mould with a carjack.
Display and sell: Finished goods can be sold locally or online via the Precious Plastic Bazar, which also has machines, parts and plastic.
Find out how you can get involved: www.preciousplastic.com