What if I told you that the tons of plastic littering every beach on Earth could become the bowls, building blocks, and decore of tomorrow? Yes, plastic litter could become the next great “resource” and have a new, more valuable life. We just have to be willing to experiment a little!
The incredible organization Precious Plastic has been on a mission since 2013 to make plastic waste very valuable.
They create open source–free to use, access, and download–plans for an array of grinding, molding, and extruding machines that turn plastic waste into raw materials just waiting to find a new use. And they can be built anywhere around the world!
Their concept is completely reimagining how we look at the plastic waste we have now. Let’s head off to a beautiful island in the Maldives to see how their remarkable idea has taken shape, and how they’re turning people all around the world into “plastic’s craftsmen”!
Let’s start at the beginning. As you probably know by now, marine plastics are a huge problem. We produce 275 million metric tonnes of plastic every year. 1 And only a tiny amount of that is recycled. To make matters worse, for a lot of the world, there are no central recycling centers. So, it ends up in the dump or burned with other garbage.
This is where the brilliance of Precious Plastic comes in. They are giving value to plastic waste by giving people easy ways to create their own small recycling and manufacturing centers.
These centers are helping local entrepreneurs convert waste into products that people can use and sell!
Imagine if you were able to go to just walk into the hardware store or craft store, pick out an endless supply of materials and leave without paying. For those in the know, that’s the kind of potential the plastic littering our planet’s shores could have.
For their project in the Maldives, Precious Plastic worked with an organization called Parley for the Oceans to develop an experimental plastics recycling and making space inside a converted shipping container. Their goal was to bring the container to the city of Male, the capital of the Maldives to help educate locals on recycling and how they could turn the massive amount of plastic on their island into things of value.
After a few years of development, long hours, and a lot of painting, the team was finally able to make this dream of a self-contained recycling education center into a reality. And once the shipping container was moved from the Precious Plastic headquarters in the Netherlands to the Maldives, they were ready to go.
Take a look at their journey in this beautiful film Precious Plastic released!
What’s the potential of a project like this?
This project in the Maldives was a part of a Precious Plastic pilot. These pilots are projects where they collaborate with other thinkers on the forefront of plastic waste reduction to create more workspaces like this around the world.
These workspaces allow the Precious Plastic team to test out new ideas and research how programs like this would work on the ground all around the world. Will a community have the capacity to keep up a workspace like this? Are people learning from the space? How long does it take for plastic to cool in a hot place like the Maldives? These are the sorts of on the ground questions the team is looking to answer as they grow worldwide.
These pilots are also part of a bigger wave of people all around the globe using Precious Plastic’s open source tools and plans to build their own machines and workspaces. And now, they work to connect people interested in building these spaces, making new things, and selling them across the world. It’s a remarkable community!
Here’s a great video they put together about this third iteration of the Precious Plastic vision and how you can get involved with the movement!
I’ve been checking in with Precious Plastic for years now. And every time, their work blows me away. They are thought leaders on the cutting edge of a grassroots movement to make plastic waste a thing of the past. Focusing in on the potential of making plastic waste valuable and recycling a source of income.
Throughout their process, they have been keeping things open source and available to all. In this way, they have been fostering a worldwide network of people to support them and each other. If you are interested in joining the community yourself make sure you check out their community page!
As they said in the video, you may not be interested in joining the community, but you probably know somebody in your circles who could be! Perhaps an artist, recycling enthusiast, or someone who knows their way around a welder. We’ve found that the message of Precious Plastic resonates with so many diverse people, so who knows, you might be a spark of inspiration!
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“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or composted, then it should be restricted, designed or removed from production.”
– Pete Seeger, Folk Singer & Social Activist
This quote, from 2008, probably sounded radical, even impossible at the time. But now, this kind of thinking is beginning to sound like the voice of reason.
Maybe we’re starting to make some progress!
Sometimes it takes a shift in our perspective about things to make a change. Great things happen when we shift our thinking about what’s possible!
Stay beautiful & keep laughing!
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- Ocean Conservancy. “Plastics in the Ocean.” Ocean Conservancy, oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/plastics-in-the-ocean/. Accessed 27 June 2019. ↩
- davehakkens. “Turning Ocean Plastic into Precious Plastic with Parley.” YouTube, Davehakkens, 17 June 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pf-foTVBmMQ. Accessed 27 June 2019. ↩
- davehakkens. “Precious Plastic 3 – Promo.” YouTube, Davehakkens, 16 Oct. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KlW_WmV3Bw. Accessed 27 June 2019. ↩