A young designer and engineer has launched his “Precious Plastic” machines that allow anyone to 3D print with recycled plastic. Plastics are everywhere in our society. In the middle of the 20th century, the so-called “Age of Plastics” began as consumers and corporations alike were in awe of this so-called revolutionary material, marketed for its versatility and malleability. Yet, over half a century later, mass plastic production has filled our world with plastic waste and debris. The vast majority of plastic garbage ends up in the world’s oceans and rivers. In the United States, where much of the world’s plastic products are consumed, only an estimated 9% of plastic waste is recycled annually.
There is so much plastic garbage in the ocean that there are now literally giant islands of trash in the Pacific ocean. They are estimated to contain over 100 million tons of garbage, a number which grows by the day. That’s not even counting the pieces of garbage that have sunk to the ocean floor. In these garbage islands, these plastics slowly release poisonous chemicals as they decompose and are wreaking havoc on oceanic ecosystems, killing off much of the wildlife. One of the most affected species is the albatross, which are dying in large numbers due to the digestion of plastic debris.
Though global plastic pollution may seem insurmountable, one Dutch designer-engineer may have the solution. Dave Hakkens, known for other creative inventions such as the modular smartphone PhoneBloks, released a series of free and open-source recycling machines. These machines, all of which can be built with inexpensive and readily available objects, give any person with internet access the ability to set up their own plastic recycling workshop. Dave has designed a total of four machines, all of which “upcycle” plastic in unique ways, giving people the freedom to make anything they can imagine with recycled plastic. These products can then be sold, benefitting local communities, not multi-national corporations.
Even though making machines may sound intimidating for many, the Precious Plastic website offers helpful blueprints, tutorials, and support forums, allowing even complete novices to assemble an entire workshop in as quickly as a week for minimal cost. Before Dave released these open-source machines, plastic recycling was only for the “big guys,” multinational corporations with the resources to buy industrial recycling machine. Thanks to Precious Plastic, the power to clean up plastic pollution and reuse it is finally in the hands of the people.
The Precious Plastic workshop consists of four machines – the shredder, the injection molder, the extrusion machine, and the compression machine. The shredder is essential to any workshop, as it grinds plastic objects into small usable flakes which are then melted and molded by the other machines. People have made a variety of objects using Dave’s machines, including hats, clipboards, planters, lampshades, knife handles, bowls, and coasters. Others, such as the girls pictured above, have made playgrounds or are using the machines to educate kids about plastic recycling.
Dave’s Precious Plastic project went public in April of this year. Since then, people from all over the world have used his plans to set up local recycling centers and to better local communities. Workshops are popping up all over the world, including Bulgaria, Palestine, Kenya, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and South Korea. You can browse several of these projects here. Consider bringing a Precious Plastic workshop to your community or sharing this great resource with others.
Watch the Precious Plastic promo video below for more information:
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