We've all seen how plastic damages the environment. We spend billions fuelling collection trucks and shipping plastic waste across oceans, yet most of it ends up dumped in landfills, or worse. They stamp the recycling symbol on single-use containers and we put them in the recycling bins, even though we all know only a tiny fraction is actually recycled.
This is insulting and injuring ecosystems. It is time for a plastic recycling revolution and I'm ready to lead the charge!
If you told me in 2019 that in a few years I'd be passionate about a plastic recycling revolution, I would have told you to get your crystal ball checked. I was obsessed with innovative urban farming techniques, seeking eco-friendly food production systems.
So one morning in a sustainable development class, the topic of China refusing to recycle Canada's plastic was testing the resilience of my coffee. I joined in on the discussion purely for participation credits.
"Don't we have the technology to recycle plastic ourselves?"
All I knew about recycling plastic came from youthful experiments involving action figures and a magnifying glass. I was pretty sure we had the technology, but more interested in aquaponics.
I didn't give plastic recycling much more thought until writing my final essay about how keeping things local is more sustainable. This time, I needed a better reference than my youthful experimentations.
That's when I discovered the Precious Plastic movement, started by a mechanical engineer named Dave Hakkens who was also pretty sure local plastic recycling was a good idea. He received a grant from the Dutch government to pursue this idea then designed, tested, and open sourced the plans for a series of plastic recycling machines.
The most amazing part was how beautiful & useful the products of this process were! They would shred single use containers, mix the colors artistically, melt and press it into boards that were hard as wood, weather proof, and looked amazing! They were also injecting the plastic into molds to create nearly any shape with vibrant colors.
This is impossible for industrial recyclers. Recycled plastic from the industrial system usually comes out dark and contaminated. They don’t properly sort or de-label their plastic, resulting in an inferior product. Manufacturers then need to mix virgin plastic in with the recycled plastic to compensate.
It's about time we toss this failed industrial recycling system in the bin, because now there's a system that works better and does it without diesel-guzzling vehicles.
Low Hanging Fruit
A typical city could overcome its local food scarcity if a fraction of the public green space was growing fruit trees. That was one of the conclusions I found in my search for urban farming innovations. What I didn't find in my studies was a desirable career path in urban farming.
My greenhouse-to-table salad-delivery business idea was covered in red tape, chasing grants for public fruit trees seemed risky, and the lawn-to-farmers were making their best money selling how-to courses.
But every time I saw a bin full of empty single-use containers, I thought of Precious Plastic and wondered is it really that easy to turn plastic waste into something valuable?
Cuz single-use containers are everywhere! If this new recycling system actually works, then all this "trash" could be seen as a resource ripe for the picking.
So I dove into the instructor world of precious plastic, studied plastic manufacturing manuals, and broke out the proverbial magnifying glass for some new experiments. Also studied how industrial recyclers deal with plastic and learn exactly why they fail to recycle more.
For the past 3 years I've been working with the machines and techniques of this local plastic recycling system and it's revolutionary!
We're on a mission to demonstrate a more effective plastic recycling system that is also environmentally friendly and profitable. This approach to recycling can enrich communities, keep our streets clean and promote a circular economy. If we view plastic as valuable, it will be picked up and kept out of sensitive ecosystems. Join us in this plastic recycling revolution!