Dutch Designers Call on Global Makers to Create a “Mini Plastic Recycling Plant” for Home Users

Maker | International Cases

“Nowadays people can hardly live without plastic products. However, plastics are also discarded as garbage in every corner of the world, destroying the natural ecology. All this is incredible. Being valuable raw material, plastics are treated worthless and scattered everywhere.”—Dave Hakkens, founder of “Precious Plastics Project”.(Dave Hakkens, 2016)

Dave Hakkens, a big boy from the Netherlands, believes that plastic products with a life expectancy of more than 100 years are everywhere around us, shouldn’t be seen as disposable, cheap garbage, but a precious resource with unlimited potential.

Therefore, he continued his “Precious Plastic Project”, a university graduation work started in 2013, and called on Makers all over the world to contribute to the project, the one utilizing self-made machines built from basic and affordable materials to create valuable products from plastic waste in communities. Makers can form a small production line in idle space near their homes or communities to further start their own businesses.

In daily life, terminate the linear model of “from production to waste” for plastic.

“Precious Plastics Project” hopes that people can roll up their sleeves, personally transform plastic waste, and change the attitude for the usage of plastics. Most plastics are discarded after one-time use, such as plastic bags, straws and food packaging. Even though the environment protection agency have implemented various plastic-restricting measures in recent years, there are more than 300 million tons of new plastics are produced every year. And less than 10% of them are recycled.(courtesy of United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2014)

“Most of the plastics were found in unexpected places such as dumps, ocean and even inside the body of animals.” Dave said. The global plastic recycling rate is still low, and the plastics that have been properly recycled with huge effort are lacking an effective recycling plan. Once again, due to nowhere to go, again it turns into garbage which takes a lot of space and energy to store and dispose of.”(Dave Hakkens, 2016)

Because of recycled plastics may contain impurity and affect the quality, most plastic manufacturers are only willing to use new raw material of plastic grain for production to avoid damaging high-precision and expensive equipment, and to reduce the cost of processing.

But in reality, most plastic waste can be easily recycled. If properly managed, recycled plastic will have the same potential as new plastic. In recent years, many international brands have joined in the effort of using recycled plastics, such as “Adidas”, a well-known sports brand that focuses on marine litter, has launched “Marine Eco Sneakers” made from discarded fishing nets and marine plastic waste.(Adele Peters, 2015)

However, it is not a fundamental solution to just prevent marine debris and garbage inflow to the ocean and causing an ecological crisis such as the 1.6 million square kilometers of marine garbage belt. People should stop the linear model of “from production to waste” of mind set for usage of plastic related products in everyday life and exploring more localized and diversity outlets for recycling plastic waste. However, in the past, for general public the plastic recycling plant were set up and separated far away of urban area, and where was even more difficult to actually make contact, utilize, or even purchase industrial plastic processing equipment.(L. Lebreton et al., 2018)

Dave decided to simplify and renovate the industrial-grade plastic production line, so that the process from “plastic recycling” to “product regeneration” can work out on self-assembly tools. In order for big city and rural community alike to emulate and build this small plastic production line, Dave travelled around the global, visiting hardware stores in designing tools with low cost and technical threshold.  He then built tools from locally sourced material, and publicly shared all the blueprints and source code on the official website, even producing a series of hands-on videos ranging from collecting, categorizing, identifying plastics and tools self-manufacturing process, to product design and promotion, to which Dave painstakingly provides all demonstrations in detail.

“We hope that everyone is capable of carrying out small-scale plastic recycling and regeneration, which will lead to an exponential growth in the amount of plastic recycling, and reduce the demand for plastic raw materials, and allow thousands of people to learn about the knowledge about plastics types, recycling methods, etc.” Thus, Plastic can be properly utilized and disposed before being tossed out into the nature.(Tomas Diez, 2017)

Dave believes if people have enough information or knowledge to learn to build tools with low or even cost of free, it would facilitate the local recycling economy of plastic effectively.

Dave Hakkens founded the “Precious Plastics Project”, hoping that people can roll up their sleeves and personally change their mind set about plastic waste.

For only NT$20,000, you could build a home-based plastic recycling production line.

The production line what Dave designed are comprised of four types of machines, including an electric shredder, three thermoforming machines, which can melt and reshape plastic pellets. Respectively, they are extrusion machine, injection machine and compression machine.

The electric shredder can crush plastic waste of different shapes and sizes into fine fragments, which can be further classified, cleaned and stored, thus improving the efficiency of melting and molding of plastic in the thermoforming machine. Electric shredders are the key tool for turning waste plastics into a usable resource. Plastic factories in general are willing to pay chopped plastics 8 to 10 times the price of normal(uncut)plastics.

In the three sets of plastic thermoforming machines, the extrusion machine is the most basic machine. After being placed in the heating pipe, the plastic will be melted at a high temperature to form a plastic semi-liquid state, which will flow out in a line shape from the outlet of the pipeline. It can be further processed into the wire materials required for 3D printing, or can be made into lamps, handles, etc. along different molds.

The principle of the injection machine is to melt the plastic and fill it into a small metal mold with a manual pump. It is suitable for making quick and fine objects such as door handles, gyros and ornaments. Compressors use a jack to push molten plastic into a large mold in an electric oven, making it suitable for time-consuming, large-scale products.

On average, each machine can be put together in 3 to 5 working days. Estimated by European prices, the material cost of 4 machines is about 623 euros(about NTD20,000). But the actual cost for different makers will vary depending on location and the resources available at hand. Take Dave’s team for example. They turned abandoned container into work station, and collected scrap iron, wires and old electrical appliances from the recycling yard as raw material for machine, thereby saving considerable costs.

From city to rural town, everyone can reverse the “plastic” life.

More than 3,000 communities and more than 40,000 people around the world have responded to precious plastics project. From New York City metropolitan area to the African rural areas, Dave’s plastic recycling production lines are all over the place. With real implementation by Makers/Operator, some great improvement and great experiences which feedback to community of the precious plastic project. These valuable feedbacks also make Dave more convinced that the power of people will make this project continue to evolve, and further expanding its influence.

“Bope Shop”, a maker/operator group in Chiang Mai, Thailand, uses this production line to create colorful plastic tiles, coasters and other products that are very popular among tourists. The social enterprise “Rice & Carry” in Sri Lanka assists women in remote communities, turning recycled plastics into one-of-a-kind bags, accessories and glass frames, etc. The products are sold in local retail stores and exported to Switzerland and Spain, thus, increasing income and rising standard of living of women in communities.

In Taiwan, there is a group of students from the Environmental Engineering Research Institute of National Taiwan University, hoping to bring to the general public the plastic remanufacturing process that is used in the factory to promote the importance and potential of plastic recycling and classification. This group of students, who do not have a background in manufacturing, nicknamed themselves “Suck Maker Team”.  With enthusiasm, they’ve consulted the electromechanical master many times, and finally succeeded in making electric shredders and injection machines, that have been operated in daily life.

In order to avoid commercial competition and prevent products from becoming ecologically threatening waste, Dave encourages makers/operators to use the machine he developed to create beautiful, durable and higher-priced plastic products.  When customers purchase a valuable plastic product due to their appreciation and preference, this stuff will be used repeatedly and benefit producers as well.

Although these home- or community-based small-scale plastic recycling operations are hardly in a position to compete with large-scale factories if regarding the amount and effectiveness of products, these makers/operators have been able to practically become a plastic craftsman.  They go from a passively compromised consumer to being a problem-changing producer, in cleaning up the community’s plastic waste and practicing a sustainable attitude towards life.

“Tools, machinery and technology are not the solution for the plastic problems. The key is to let people start to change their mindset and regard plastic waste as a precious resource.” Dave believes that machine is not the main point of “Precious Plastic Project”, but motivating people to figure out the plastic garbage dilemma with their brain and hands and then keep this spirit to solve more environmental problems.(Tomas Diez, 2017)

 

“Suck Maker Team” who successfully manufactured the plastic recycling machine. This image was provided by the “Suck Maker Team” at Taiwan University Environmental Engineering Research Institute(provided by Hong Peiying)


Extended Reading

Precious Plastichttps://preciousplastic.com/

The international brand “Adidas” launched “Marine Eco Sneakers” made of sea waste plastichttps://www.adidas.com/us/parley

References

(Editor:PeiHsuan Lai)

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