The Precious Plastic recycling revolution

Precious Plastic has ignited a movement which could transform our perception of what waste is.

  • Sep 29, 2020
  • 4 MIN READ

The plastic problem is no new phenomena – the health and environmental issues plastics and microplastics cause is disseminated across the news daily. Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times (EcoWatch). Yet despite this, we still continue to produce and waste colossal amounts of plastic despite our attempts to reduce packaging and buying bottled water, amongst other actions. Often these efforts are felt by and costly for the consumer, rather than the system (or corporation) which is, in fact, the one producing the plastic.

Our behaviours sometimes fail to change due to the feeling that we feel powerless in making substantial, systemic change. Precious Plastic has changed this – through creating tools for empowerment. The ‘tools’ are in fact in the form of four remarkable machines, which transform plastic ‘waste’ into a precious material. 

Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times
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But, what is Precious Plastic?

Precious Plastic began back in 2012 when Dave Hakkens began working with plastic for his studies in Eindhoven, releasing Version 1 of the machine during his graduation show for DAE. Precious Plastic consists of four open-source machines – the Shredder, Extrusion, Injection and Compression machine in which all perform a different action to process waste. Each machine has an online video (for free!) guiding you through the machine construction – whether you are a schoolteacher or a budding entrepreneur. Even better, Precious Plastic has a huge global community you can connect with, for knowledge exchange, ideas and tips on the machines. This is a huge advancement in working towards a more circular economy and society – from the local to the global. 

Plastic fantastic! Do you want to know more about Precious Plastic and how they assist their community of organisations around the world? Listen to Joseph Klatt, the ‘Business Guy’ from Precious Plastic this Thursday, October 1st from 15:30 – 16:30 (CEST) on the topic of ‘Building Innovative Business Models for 2020 and Beyond’ – kicking off this year’s Distributed Design Academy as a guest speaker. Watch it live on the Distributed Design Facebook page 👀

A global community

The Precious Plastic movement highlights the role of effective communication, dissemination and empowerment. We currently inhabit an interconnected world in which thousands of diverse people can access the same information anytime, anywhere. This means that we can face global challenges as a global community. The plastic problem is unquestionably a global challenge, yet it is also a challenge in which we created. Precious Plastic simple but effective language and well-loved videos have created an accessible platform in which many can contribute to, in which change feels impactful. The Precious Plastic vision is powered by people, not governmental change. This is a powerful concept to consider in other areas that require change – in which bottom-up movements combined with transforming technology can create and sustain change.

Big news! Fab Lab Barcelona is now a Precious Plastic recycling space

Fab Lab Barcelona has recently become a Precious Plastic recycling space in a step toward becoming a Circular Maker Space. We are developing an approach to design and implement Circular Maker Spaces as an initiative in the EU-funded PopMachina Project. We’ve built a Shredder, Injection Moulder, adapted a Sheet Press and also working on some low-tech projects. We’re planning to develop processes to understand the relationship between Fab Lab Barcelona and Precious Plastics. This is part of our wider approach of expanding and forging new networks of makers, DIY’ers and citizens alike. Fab Lab Barcelona is continuing to design and produce machines, however, we are using these machines – such as the Precious Plastic machines – to start and join a movement. This works on integrating empowering practices we see in Fab Labs and makerspaces to wider society, encouraging circular practices at a wider scale.

Plastic for Good Challenge 

Precious Plastic represents a greater value shift in society. The value shift comes from the change in perspective towards what we value as waste. The waste – plastic, in this case, is, in fact, an opportunity. The opportunity comes from an abundance of material which can be reused and transformed if empowered with the toolsin this case, the four versions of the Precious Plastic machines. Plastic is, in fact, a great material if used for the correct context. The machines reinvent the ownership of plastic from being a mass-manufactured material to a material which is shaped and empowers the hands of the maker – the plastic has, essentially, become precious.

Plastic is, in fact, a great material if used for the correct context
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The Plastic for Good challenge was hosted by Distributed Design and Precious Plastic in summer 2018. The week-long intensive boot camp invited 15 DDMP creatives to design five innovative products made from recycled plastic. A diverse set of designs were made, from the JIMGO Cargo Bike, the Steedy rocking toy, the Muchas Mantas modular tiles, the Twist joint and the Table Backpack. The intense seven-day challenge created clean, useful designs to contribute and transform waste, all of which are open-source and can be made now.  

Creating the tools

The Precious Plastic movement and global community speak on a much higher level. There is a need to look at other global problems in this way and seek an opportunity within. For example, there may be ingenious ways to work with food waste – we just need to create the tools to transform it. The same can be said for many other products that we view as waste. Perhaps we will reach a saturation point of having too much ‘stuff’ – in which next generations will begin to re-evaluate this and discover, design and prototype emergent systems. If not out of curiosity, we will need to do this out of necessity. Precious Plastic may have started the momentum to campaign and change our relationship with plastics, but there are many more opportunities waiting to be discovered – we just have to look. 

Want to become a plastic warrior?

  • Find a local precious plastics recycling point near you. 
  • Download the open-source ‘Design, Remix, Share, Repeat’ book by DDMP and be inspired to make and create inspiring projects.
  • Watch ‘A Big Bang for Plastics Recycling’ from Precious Plastic.
  • Listen to our Future Talks episode with Kate Armstrong and Mattia Bernini.

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