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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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!)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
Even a new home for houseplants.
Or a sweet knife handle upgrade.
The possibilities are endless.
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.