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.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

When schools closed early in the spring, the entire country was thrown for a loop. Parents had to figure out what to do with their kids. Teachers had to figure out how to teach students at home. Kids had to figure out how to navigate a totally new routine that was being created and altered in real time.

For many families, it was a big honking mess—one that many really don't want to repeat in the fall.

But at the same time, the U.S. hasn't gotten a handle on the coronavirus pandemic. As states have begun reopening—several of them too early, according to public health officials—COVID-19 cases have risen to the point where we now have more cases per day than we did during the height of the outbreak in the spring. And yet President Trump is making a huge push to get schools to reopen fully in the fall, even threatening to possibly remove funding if they don't.

It's worth pointing out that Denmark and Norway had 10 and 11 new cases yesterday. Sweden and Germany had around 300 each. The U.S. had 55,000. (And no, that's not because we're testing thousands of times more people than those countries are.)

The president of the country's largest teacher's union had something to say about Trump's push to reopen schools. Lily Eskelsen Garcia says that schools do need to reopen, but they need to be able to reopen safely—with measures that will help keep both students and teachers from spreading the virus and making the pandemic worse. (Trump has also criticized the CDCs "very tough & expensive guidelines" for reopening schools.)

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