Our oceans are littered with plastic waste. We see photos of sea birds, stomachs askew with a lifetime of ingested plastic. Surfing in Morocco, the beaches were littered with plastic waste. The first of these factories will be in Vancouver, then soon around the world. Waste will be transformed into useful goods, creating an economic imperative for the material. In turn the profits can be used to help clean our beloved oceans. For starters, regular Beach Cleanups (in partnership with Surfrider and Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society) with
a twist: after cleanup, involve the volunteers in the recreation process, making new things directly from the waste.
Outreach to local environmental groups, and especially elementary and high schools will begin in 2017, once our AMS club has established operations and is collecting, sorting and producing. The school and group tours will involve collecting plastic waste, touring the recycling workshop, live demonstrations of the machines and discussions about research and the future of recycling, including globally in developing nations as well as the large-scale ocean cleanup that must occur. Overall, the goal of these tours will be to present a transparent walkthrough of how recycling can work.
In developing nations like India and Ghana, overrun by e-waste and plastic trash, people struggle to recycle it into new things. Without the tools and information to properly recycle, they often resort to burning the plastic for energy, or using the ‘burn-and-sniff’ sorting method, to guess at what material a plastic might be. As
UBC is a leading research institution, the Plastic Workshop will support student research into novel sorting and processing methods, with the goal of creating affordable sorting technology that can be spread around the world to help improve the health of amateur recyclers. By preventing exposure to the dangerous fumes burning plastic expels, health risks can be mitigated.
Plastic doesn’t come from the store, and go to the recycling bin, but it sure seems so. We aim to reshape this narrative; creating long-lasting plastic products. More deeply though, by developing a craft from recycling plastic, people will create objects that they value–like that ceramic mug or wooden chair you treasure, a plastic plant pot you create could be a beautiful, longterm possession. Fostering a deeper connection with the objects we use, plastic can cease to be viewed as a disposable, and be appreciated for its unique properties and cherished, when shaped by hands, with love. While we create these products, we hope to foster a community of like-minded ‘melters’, intent on sharing knowledge about the new craft.
We believe UBC should be the first campus in North America, to have student-run on-site recycling program. Recycling is far too passive in its current form. You and I “recycle” the same way we “throw out”—by putting it in a bin, which gets taken away where we have no idea what becomes of it, whether 8% or 80% is recycled, and whether that recycling takes place in Burnaby or Beijing. By keeping recycling close to home, we can reduce transport of these goods and close the loop, eventually selling back high quality pellets to Vancouver plastic producers.
The Plastic Workshop would therefore be an educational hub, where students can learn immersively about how different materials can be reused, and the different properties that make the materials useful.
longevity and feasibility
Since all the machines are modular, and sourced from easily accessible junkyard materials (we are in contact with the Vancouver Landfill for sourcing), any broken parts will be easily and cheaply replaced. Furthermore the program will easily expand, as the machines can be arbitrarily expanded, because of their modular nature. Looking forward, a higher volume grinder could be produced by expanding the hopper and adding a more powerful motor. The (see preciousplastic.com for the open-source machine blueprints, object ideas and engaging videos)!