Dutch designer Dave Hakkens has released new versions of Precious Plastic machines, which anyone can build and use to turn unwanted plastic into usable products. The prototype was made back in 2013 as part of Hakkens’s graduation project for the Design Academy Eidhoven in the Netherlands, but since then his idea has evolved into a popular recycling initiative.

The mini recycling factory, which can be built from everyday materials and basic tools, includes a plastic shredder, an extruder, an injection molder and rotation molder. The Precious Plastic founder, who shares the blueprints for the machines for free online, believes that his invention could help people create new items and even start their own business.

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“There are a huge amount of possibilities — you can create trash cans, hats, hooks and lamps… We are curious to see what people will come up with," Hakkens explained.

How did you come up with the idea to create a personal recycling machine?

We all know there is a lot of plastic waste lying around everywhere. It damages our oceans, animals and environment. Every year we produce more plastic, and globally, less then 10 percent of it gets recycled. The plastic industry doesn’t put enough effort in. They just keep producing more and more.

What are you planning to achieve?

We want to try and boost plastic recycling by providing people with the tools to get started. These days it’s only the huge plastic industry that is working with it. At the moment, one can’t work with plastic on a small scale like a carpenter with wood or a metalworker with metal. We want to enable people to work with it this way. 

How does it work?

First you need to collect plastic waste in your neighborhood. You can pick it up yourself or ask people to bring it to your little factory. Here the plastic gets sorted out and shredded into small flakes. These flakes can be used in the machines, which heat up the plastic and then squeeze it into something new. You can decide yourself what to make.

What could the plastic waste be converted into?

There are a huge amount of possibilities. We only made a few basic examples to show people: bowls, 3D printer filament, trash cans, hats, hooks or lamps, the list goes on. You can also play around mixing colors, create weird patterns and make solid objects. We are curious to see what people come up with!

Is it easy? 

In general, plastic is a material that is quite easy to recycle. In fact, it’s made for it. In comparison to other materials, like glass and metal where you need super high temperatures (over 1,000 degrees), plastic can be shaped on relatively low temperatures (around 200 degrees).

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This still sounds quite tricky…

Yes, working with plastic in this way is quite new, but we provide the basic knowledge to get started. However, there is still a lot to explore and figure out, which is exciting. The hardest part is finding something useful to make with it.

How could Precious Plastic be beneficial?

Apart from recycling, it enables people to start their own little factory, clean up the neighborhood from waste and build their own business. It gives plastic waste a value. The last one is a crucial part in developing countries; in this way, they can clean up their environment while generating income.

What’s next?

We shared all the information people need to get started online. The blueprints to build the machines, 3D models, instruction videos are all free to download. Now that people all over the world have access to the knowledge, the next step is to wait for them to build machines and get started.

- By Dmitry Belyaev