Recycle plastics? Yes, of course. That is the general consensus. That plastic parts are floating in oceans worldwide, is also known. But looking at Amsterdam’s beautiful waterways, you’d see that plastic waste is a local issue too. And the truth of the matter is, recycling plastic waste is not yet done on the large scale it could be. In this hands-on activation session, VBAT invited WDCD 2017 participants to become aware of this and come up with local solutions for recycled plastics.
FROM THE BIN TO YOUR POCKET
The first and most important point to consider is that plastic is a valuable and diverse resource, and when collected right, it can be re-used for many very practical purposes. Elisha Weeber and Ieva Punyte showed how their initiative Wasted LAB has taken on the role of mediator in a new social contract which rewards the act of separating waste. Wasted LAB connects households, businesses, organisations and communities in their waste recycling efforts by using a reward system. How? Plastic waste collectors are rewarded with “Wastedcoins” – currency that can be spent locally at shops, restaurants, or for services. All the neighbourhood ’wasted members’ benefit from this system. Valuable connections are made, local cohesion improves, waste is separated and recycled. The next step is to bring the system to other parts of the world; to encourage locals to adopt the initiative to suit their needs.
MASS PRODUCTION TO MASS RECYCLING
Next to speak was Mathias Worbin from IKEA’s core design team. He pointed out that one of IKEA’s goals is to be fossil fuel free by 2020. Another ambition, is to leave no landfill. That means their entire design process must be streamlined to avoid mixing materials and to maximize the potential for reuse and recycling. Research into bioplastics and it’s biodegradability in water and land is another important aspect of working in a more circular way, Mathias explained.
Then it was the participants’ turn to try their hand at separating the many different types of plastic in every day objects. A large basket of plastic waste was handed out to every group, along with a plastics determination map. Tiny pieces had to be taken of the bottles, packages, pots, bags and tubes and put in water or oil to see whether they would float or sink. Tears and cuts had to be made to know if it was PP, LDPE, PET or PS. One by one we discovered problems and missed opportunities – for example that most caps of bottles are made out of PP: a very strong and hard kind of plastic, that can be re-used for solid products if only it was separately collected.
HOW TO CLEAN UP THIS PLASTIC PLANET?
After this hands-on encounter with the plastics it was time to brainstorm. How could each type of plastic be reworked into a valuable resource for a local issue/problem? That was the design question to chew on.
Ideas abounded. How about a high speed cycle path built out of recyled plastics? Or better re-usable, stackable packaging for take-away food, that could be refilled at the supermarket? A feasible idea knowing that a big part of plastic waste comes from food packaging.
The out of the box thinking managed by participants in such a short time is very promising for the future. And it all comes back to this no-brainer: don’t waste waste, it is valuable. A cleaner planet, some imaginative products and a lot of local benefits can come of out it.
Top photo: Different types of plastics used in everyday objects (photo Leo Veger)