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.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

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There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

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A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

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Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Mom and stepmom become best friends and hope to inspire more togetherness

The "Moms of Tampa" are officially besties and loving it.

Meet the Moms of Tampa, winning hearts online while advocating for healthy co-parenting.

Tiffany Paskas and Megan Stortz, aka the Moms of Tampa, weren’t always the best friends that they are now. The unique story of how they became that way is catching a lot of positive attention and shining a light on how we might rethink co-parenting dynamics after divorce.

Stortz and her ex-husband Mike (married now to Paskas) share custody of their 11-year old son, Michael. At first, like many moms and stepmoms, Stortz and Paskas never spoke to one another.

Paskas explained to local NBC affiliate WFLA, “We just didn’t know it was okay to talk. We were under the impression, being children of divorce, that the ex and the new never intermingle, so it was like, best to stay away. So that’s kind of how we dealt with the first four years.”
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Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

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