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Precious Plastic turns everyday Trash into Useful Treasure

Author: Zero Waste Volunteers

One of the most crucial aspects of a zero-waste lifestyle is reducing the the amount of disposable, single-use plastics that make their way into the environment. Unlike paper and food waste, plastic trash cannot decompose naturally over time, creating permanent waste in our landfills. Even worse, the stuff can break down in the heat of the sun, turning into toxic microplastics that can pollute water sources and damage the health of wildlife.

Everyone should strive to reduce their plastic waste, but so much of our globalized economy has become dependent on using these cheap products for packaging and manufacturing. The market may provide you with a few "environmentally friendly" alternatives, but the reality is that if you buy any mass-produced good from a store, it's probably created plastic waste somewhere along the line. Over 380 tonnes of plastic are being produced annually, with that number only poised to go higher. Moreover, only 10% of it gets recycled, with the vast majority getting burned or dumped in landfills. With all that in mind, how can individual help curb the problem of single-use plastics?

That's where the Precious Plastic project comes in. Created by Dutch engineer Dave Hakkens, the program is designed to give ordinary people the ability to recycle plastic waste, turning disposable products and packaging into everything from jewelry to tools and furniture. The global initiative evolved from processing machines that Hakkens designed and built as part of a grad-school project in 2013.

These machines are the backbone of Precious Plastic. First is the shredder, which simply cuts and crushes plastic waste into small malleable pieces. These shredded bits can then be dumped into the extruder, to melt them together and extrude them into a long filament. This is an important raw material that can be threaded to create things like baskets, or loaded into an injection mould, sheet press, or 3-D printer to produce all manner of products.

When he founded Precious Plastic, Hakkens put the open-source blueprints for these machines up on the web site, meaning anyone can reproduce, build, and modify the designs for free. The site also includes an online marketplace where recyclers can buy and sell pre-built machines, as well as finished plastic products.

Perhaps most importantly, Dave Hakkens has also incorporated a global project map that zero-waste enthusiasts can use to coordinate plastic drop-off points, buy products, or cooperate on all manner of recycling tasks. People have already marked Precious Plastic spaces near Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Chenai, so we highly recommend checking them out if you're in those areas. Or better yet, check out the designs and start your very own workshop anywhere in the country.