One initiative is sharing their designs for free to help lessen the world's plastic waste.

The stats surrounding plastic pollution are mind-boggling.

Right now, there are billions of pounds of plastic wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. And every year, it's estimated that 13 million tons more will make its way out there — poisoning Mother Nature and killing even more wildlife.

Not cool. At all.


Image via Precious Plastic, used with permission.

The problem is the process of actually recycling plastic isn't as thorough as it might seem. In 2010, the EPA estimated that of the plastic used in the U.S., only about 8% was recycled. The other 92% just ends up in landfills, oceans, and who knows where else.

Totally unacceptable.

This mind-blowing statistic sparked an idea in Dutch designer Dave Hakkens that could change how people approach recycling. He says: "When I heard that less than 10% of plastic gets recycled, I figured, 'Why not everything? Why not more?' Because plastic is actually easy to recycle."

This led Hakkens to start Precious Plastic — an innovative approach to solving the world's plastic problem. And it's pretty fantastic.

Precious Plastic is an initiative that allows anyone to create their own plastic recycling machines anywhere they want. Even better, they can create amazing products out of the recycled material.

Image via Precious Plastic, used with permission.

Hakkens explains further on his website: "The machinery is based on industry standards but designed to build yourself, easy to use and made to work with recycled plastic. You can bring your old plastic to a workshop like this, new products will be made and sold. Like a carpenter or a ceramist, it is now possible to produce plastic locally."

Want to help with the mission? Here are seven things to know about this game-changing idea.

1. The blueprints for the machines can be downloaded for FREE!

Image via Precious Plastic, used with permission.

That's right! Free! As in, like, RIGHT HERE.

Precious Plastic is open-source, meaning anyone can use it, anyone can share it, and anyone can customize it. It also means anyone can set up a workshop anywhere!

2. All the materials, parts, and tools needed are super-basic.

Image via Dave Hakkens/YouTube.

These materials are so basic, in fact, that everything necessary to build the machines can be obtained all over the world. This makes the initiative extremely doable, from the developing to the developed world.

More importantly, it means the parts can be replaced or customized without having to call any sort of customer service.

3. There are detailed instructional videos for every step in the process.

Image via Dave Hakkens/YouTube.

People aren't just getting blueprints and instructions with IKEA-esque hieroglyphics. No. Every move that needs to made to get a personal recycling center up and running is explained in a beautifully shot step-by-step series.

4. There are four machines that each do one thing extremely well to turn plastic trash into everyday treasures.

It all starts with the Shredder. (No, not the sworn enemy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)

GIF via Dave Hakkens/YouTube.

This kind of shredder is the machine responsible for breaking down plastic into itty-bitty flakes that serve as the foundation for any item you create with the other machines.

The Extrusion Machine can create ropey plastic filament. (Perfect for 3D printing!)


GIF via Dave Hakkens/YouTube.

You know how Play-Doh had that machine where you put the clay inside and then out came the clay looking like a rope? Well, that's pretty much what the Extrusion Machine is like, only it starts out as plastic flakes instead.

The Injection Molding Machine pours hot plastic straight into a mold.

GIF via Dave Hakkens/YouTube.

This is kind of like when blacksmiths would pour hot metal into a pre-existing template. Then after some cooling, out comes the armor! The best part is, there are patterns for different molds to make all kinds of stuff!

For larger objects, you can cook 'em up in the Compressor.

GIF via Dave Hakkens/YouTube.

For bigger, more solid stuff like baskets, bowls, and even clipboards, the mold is placed inside the oven. After a few hours, out comes the useful everyday object.

5. It can be done for fun or as a business (which is also fun).

Image via Precious Plastic Lab, used with permission.

We know this can be done in the comfort of one's own workshop as a hobby. But it's also possible for recyclers to create a business out of it and start their own recycling center. And that is especially important to Hakkens.

"We envision that later on, in every community or every neighborhood, there is a place where you can bring your plastic which is locally turned into something new and people get some money in return for that plastic. That would be the ultimate goal."

6. Builders around the world are joining in on the movement.

Image via Dave Hakkens/YouTube.

Because Precious Plastic relies on an open-source system, sharing is absolutely crucial. And in the short time it's been around, it's already made its way to every continent on Earth — save for Antarctica.

You can even check out how other builders around the world are doing on Precious Plastic Lab.

7. There's so much awesome stuff that can be made!

Colorful containers!

Image via Precious Plastic, used with permission.

Even a new home for houseplants.

Image via Precious Plastic, used with permission.

Or a sweet knife handle upgrade.

Image via Precious Plastic, used with permission.

The possibilities are endless.

Image via Precious Plastic, used with permission.

Precious Plastic already provides people with a list of items they can create. But they also encourage experimentation to see what other ideas are out there. For them, the only limit to creation is one's imagination.

This type of creative problem-solving is exactly what our world needs more of.

Yes, there are millions and billions of little plastic bits scattered all over. And it'll probably take some time for a personal recycling workshop to make a huge impact. But it is a step in the right direction.

Part of Precious Plastic's mission is to simply spread this idea to as many people as possible. That's why it's all free. It's not about profit. It's about change.

And as the number of people creating their own machines around the world grows, so does our ability as a people to make planet Earth as green as ever.

Heroes

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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