An Open-Source, DIY Machine That Turns Plastic Waste Into New Products

Precious Plastic 4 copy

Image: Precious Plastic

Upwards of 13 million tons of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans every year, the equivalent of about five bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline.

Tackling our plastic problem begins first and foremost by making sure that plastic doesn’t get enter the waste stream in the first place, which means decreasing the amount of plastic products put into the marketplace, particularly single-use plastic items like bags and bottles. Until policy catches up to the needs of the environment, we can all be making personal choices to decrease our plastic consumption.

One designer has taken his personal choices even one step further. Starting as a graduation project at the Design Academy in Eindhoven in 2013, Dave Hakkens’ Precious Plastic concept has grown into an award-winning, global campaign. The idea is simple: put plastic waste to better use.

Precious Plastic 1 copy

Image: Precious Plastic

Realizing that there was no way that individuals could repurpose plastic waste, Hakkens designed a series of machines that can be used to turn plastic into various products. But what makes Hakkens Precious Plastic initiative unique is that his designs are free and open for use to anyone in the world. The machines can be built with basic materials that can be found anywhere. Once someone has built one of the machines, they can turn plastic waste into a raw material, and in turn into a new product.

His goal is to have people start their own business and clean up without evening knowing it.

“Size is currently still limited,” notes Hakkens, pointing out that making larger objects “means making bigger machines.”

For the global launch of Precious Plastic, Hakkens made several examples of products that could be made with the machines, like plant pots, lampshades and clipboards. “But there is sooo much more possible,” says Hakkens, “I’m sure someone can find a way to make apparel with it.” In fact, one of the sample items that Hakkens made was a sun hat, woven with plastic cable.

Precious Plastic 2 copy

Image: Precious Plastic

Hakkens wants to reach as many people as possible – from potential entrepreneurs who are considering launching a production line to at-home design enthusiasts, which is why he has made all of the blueprints available in one online hub. At people can not only download the blueprints, but watch videos to learn how to use the machines and repurpose plastic waste. In this way, Hakkens says he can “reach every place in the world.”

When you click on the “spread” button on the website, a page pops up encouraging you to send the project along to everyone you know, or more precisely, “Make sure it reaches your friend, uncle and that farmer living in Africa.”

How far will Precious Plastic reach? A few of Hakkens’ prototypes and early models have already been built by others, and he is now looking forward to seeing people build the new versions. If he has anything to do with it, we just might see plastic recycling workshops popping up around the globe, taking a waste product and turning it into something useful instead.