A lot of things we have are made from plastic. The synthetic material is used everywhere, but it also ends up everywhere – mostly in landfills or oceans. Of all the plastic ever thrown away, we’ve so far recycled just 9%.
Dutch designer Dave Hakkens is on a mission to boost that number, by letting people in every corner of the world know they can start their own local little plastic recycling workshop. The reason why? On his website, he explains it by simply linking to these shocking images, which do all the explaining.
“Precious Plastic is my biggest project. Ever. By far,” he explains. “It started with an idea to provide people the tools to start working with plastic waste locally. Sounds simple right?”
Actually, it’s pretty crafty. Using basic tools and materials, the Design Academy Eindhoven graduate has developed a series of DIY machines that enable everyone to work with plastic waste. “We develop machines to recycle plastic and share the blueprints open source for free so that everyone in the world can download and build them.”
Video tutorials on the Precious Plastic site encourage people to recycle different plastic types, build their own machines and download templates in order to start their own mini-recycle factory. “It’s not just for the big boys.” Machines include a plastic shredder, extruder, injection moulder and rotation moulder, which are all based on industrial machines but modified to be less complex and more flexible.
“The people making the machines are really improving them. It gives me a feeling of ‘you’re not on your own’ when people all over the world not only use the information, but also help to make the project grow and improve. That’s when it really grows beyond us – and that gives me joy!”
The site also includes inspiration for the things you can create: furniture, jewellery, tools, construction materials and more.
In October 2017 Precious Plastic launched ‘Version 3.0’ which included a recycling container, so all you needed to start recycling was a 380v plug and a bit of land. Blueprints and video tutorials are available online for free. Then there is their Bazar, an online marketplace to buy and sell products, parts and machines to create plastic recycling local economies around the world. Lastly, a tailored map (and we love a map) makes local collaboration easier.
Version 4.0, launched in January 2020, was developed over 18 months with more than 100 volunteers from around the world who came to the Precious Plastic headquarters in the Netherlands. The release focuses on starterkit packages that include all the information needed to get started with different types of plastic recycling businesses anywhere in the world – machine blueprints, business models, product mould files, branding tools, and much more. Eight different starter kits work together to create an interdependent web of local plastic recycling businesses in a region, city, or town. In addition to Bazar, the Precious Plastic new community platform, their Academy, and Discord forum all tie together in what’s known as ‘the Precious Plastic Universe’.
“It’s exciting to see the V4 machines and products that we worked on for so long starting to pop up around the world and ramp up the amount of plastic being recycled,” says Joseph Klatt, their ‘business guy’. “Right now we are focused on getting everything developed during version 4 out into the world. We’ve started offering all in one starterkits to organisations with all the machines, product moulds, and information to accelerate the spread.”
The global online community has over 82,000 members registered on their forum and the network now includes over 450 workspaces who are using Precious Plastic machines or methodologies – and a new one is popping up every week. “They really are all around the world, as they are so versatile”, Dave adds. “I’ve not even counted the countries. We only know about ones that exist when people share a picture back, because we don’t ask for anything – not even an email address.”
The passionate designer sees the problem of plastic as being both technical and cultural. “It’s definitely our disposable culture that we need to change, but also we just need infrastructure so we can really recycle. A problem like this has many small issues to it and we need to tackle all of them.” He believes creativity to be a very important element. “I do think creativity can show others examples or an alternative, and make it interesting exciting and inspiring – sort of paving the way for the masses.”
Watch the video below and get started creating new valuable things out of plastic, start a new business and clean up your neighbourhood.
🎫 AtlasEvent ► Precious Plastic were at Fixing the future 2019 in Barcelona.
This project has been selected as part of CultureFutures, a new storytelling project that maps creative and cultural projects with a social mission – and the artists, collectives and entrepreneurs behind them.
Atlas of the Future is excited to join forces with Goldsmiths Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship and the British Council Creative Economy.