Could DIY plastic recycling be the next consumer innovation?

Precious Plastics

The benefits of recycling plastic are well recognised, although only a tiny proportion of the 300 million tonnes of plastic that is produced each year is currently recycled. Plastic recycling is normally carried out in a factory environment using extremely costly industrial equipment, but an organisation called Precious Plastic is aiming to change all this.

Dave Hakkens, the founder of Precious Plastic says that the company wants to make recycling plastic on a small scale available to everyone. Over time, this would increase the amount of plastic that is recycled and reduce the demand for the production of new plastic. Naturally, this would be beneficial to the environment and it would also have the benefit of educating millions of people about plastic and how it should be handled and recycled.

The company has designed a series of simple, low cost machines that can carry out the various steps in plastic recycling. One machine shreds plastic into flakes, there is another modular machine for extruding plastic to be used for 3D printing, an injection machine and another for compression, so that plastic can be formed into moulds.

The construction of these machines is explained in a series of open source videos, so that people all over the world will be able to build them with universal parts and basic materials. This means that plastic waste can be turned into new material of a much smaller scale.
In Chang Mai, Thailand, for example, designers have set up a workshop for recycling plastic, mostly plastic bags that are collected from the street, into coasters and tabletops with the appearance of marble. Waste plastic is recycled into bowls in Lviv, Ukraine, by makers using DIY equipment that they have created from a shopping cart and disused industrial parts.

Designers in Seoul promote recycling education using a mobile cart for recycling plastic.

The machines designed by Precious Plastic are now being used by designers in the Ukraine and Thailand, in addition to over 200 others around the world. The machines were first used for creating products from recycled plastic in 2016, and their use is expanding. New instructions for creating complete recycling workshops in shipping containers are now being shared by the organisation with designers worldwide. Members of the DIY recycling community are also being encouraged to connect together and a new map has been created to assist with this.

The map will aid people to collaborate more easily with others in their locality and will help to create hundreds more work spaces for the recycling of plastic throughout the world. It will also give people a way of combating plastic waste in a creative manner, such as organising campaigns to pass laws, boycotting certain businesses and organising protests and other forms of action aimed at ending plastic pollution.

For people who make products using Precious Plastic’s machines, there is a new online marketplace, known as Bazar, where they can sell the things they make. This has been set up to help more people start to make a living through recycling plastic.

According to Dave Hakkens, the team’s priority is recycling plastic, although they are also interested in building tools that will help with recycling and using other materials.