Closing the Plastic Loop

I’ve been recycling for a long time. I was into Captain Planet when I was young, and I ran my high school’s paper recycling club. For home, it started as sorting and dropping off, then sorting for curb pickup. Now it’s just plain old curb pickup, with a side of dropping off for complex things like styrofoam and electronics. But we’ve been able to recycle plastic efficiently for decades, right?

So, plastic is made from oil. Lots of plastic means lots of demand for oil, and if plastic was everywhere, then that demand becomes long term. When plastic’s resistance to degrading naturally became a public issue, the oil companies protected their long-term profits with a massive and prolonged media campaign.

I’d had people tell me, off and on, that most of what I was recycling wasn’t going anywhere but the dump. I didn’t believe it, and I dismissed the idea as paranoid. That would be fraud at a massive level, wouldn’t it?

How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

Son of a crap. I was wrong, I was lied to (again) by the oil industry, and I ate it up. So, since reading that article, I’ve been looking into ways to recycle plastic myself. I found a kid making slingshots, and that got me started.

How To Recycle HDPE Bottle Lids Into Flawless Flat Sheet Material – Best Results

It took me a while, but I found something called Precious Plastic. They’ve designed small-scale hardware that shreds, melts, and re-casts plastics. As an added bonus, they’ve joined the Open Source Hardware movement, and released their designs and plans for everyone to use.

Precious Plastic

Well, almost anyone. The blades in the plastic shredder need to be laser-cut steel. Extruders emit a lot of fumes, so you should really have an industrial venting system. Oh, and the space they take up is designed for warehouses, not garages or basements. So, this would be great for maker spaces, small companies, or local recycling centers.

Precious Plastic -Version Two

And, really, what would I turn my plastic into? What would I make? Furniture? Drink coasters? How would I make whatever it is? Molds? Cutting and drilling? 3D printing? Wait, hold on a second, 3D printing would be viable for small things, or things built with smallish parts. Could 3D printers even use recycled plastics?

ProtoCycler+

Okay, so it can be done! But this thing only recycles used filament, not other kinds of plastic. It only does tiny bits at a time, and costs way too much money for those limitations. But it’s possible! And wait, why would I need to make things with the recycled plastic filament? Once I have the means, I could definitely turn a bunch of plastic into filament, and give what I can’t use away to maker groups, or even sell it online.

So, all I need to do is find or come up with something between Precious Plastic and the ProtoCycler, acquire or assemble it, and do the thing! Nothing to it, right?

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