Though 100% of plastics are recyclable, just 10% of our plastics ever actually get recycled. Most of this waste winds up clogging landfills. For his senior thesis project at Eindhoven Design Academy, Dave Hakkens decided to take matters into his own hands and created an at-home, DIY plastic recycling workshop called "Precious Plastic."
"I started this project when I heard that just 10% of our plastic is recycled. So I went to all these companies to figure out what the problem was," Hakkens tells Co.Design. He visited plastic factories and educated himself about the recycling industry, and found that companies don’t want to use recycled plastic, because it tends to be less pure, and can damage the industrial machines used to produce plastic products. "I realized a logical thing would be to have local workshops where people can bring their plastic waste and transform it into new products," says Hakkens. "So I made them."
Remember Mattel’s Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker for kids, with "Plastigoop" and die-cast molds that let you make your own toy bugs? The way this works is a bit like that. Hakkens's workshop is modeled after industrial recycling machinery, but it’s far less complicated and more flexible. Essentially, a coffee grinder-like machine grinds up used plastic products, and then an oven melts the ground chips into goop. This goop can then be molded to create various new objects, either through injection molding, rotational molding, or extrusion methods. Hakkens created a plastic gun that works like a giant glue gun, which he uses to inject the plastic goop into molds. And, as he writes on his website, "I made a little mold-car that turns the mold around and can ride back and forth. On this little car I’m going to put the different molds, and poop plastic on it with the extrusion."
Some of Hakkens’s resulting homemade plastic products resemble beautifully woven baskets with ombre coloring. Others are brightly speckled cups or containers; another is a spinning top. He’s turned recycling into a fun craft project.
The whole endeavor is still in its startup stage, but Hakkens says, "The plan is to share everything online (blueprints, instructions, etc.), so that people all over the world can start their own plastic workshops and collect local waste." In the interest of sustainability, he hopes communities will begin to build their own local plastic workshops. "In the same way that there are carpenters, ceramicists, and metal-workers, now we can have plastic-workers."
Maybe one day, instead of buying a new dish set, you’ll make your own from used toys and bottles. "I believe in this way people can start taking care of recycling themselves and don't have to rely on the huge industry," Hakkens says.