by Katharina Elleke
What is waste?
Designers as well as the industry like to work with this inexpensive, lightweight, versatile and durable material. But huge amounts of plastic are used for disposable products and therefore discarded after an extremely short time of usage. Most plastic is then burned or even worse: ends up somewhere in our environment, on the streets and beaches, in forests and oceans.
This project is an approach to the topic plastic (waste) and the big question for ways to find solutions for the current disaster. This popular material does not only pollute our environment but also poses a huge health hazard for flora, fauna and human beings. No question that our nature should be relieved from all the waste – but still it should be clear that we should actually go back to the origin to get rid of this problem.
The trigger: A research semester about plastic waste and recycling in Kenya.
Waste is everywhere here and most of the people don’t see other ways to get rid of it but burning or littering it onto the next dumpsite. Stop the production, yes – but here you can’t get around dealing with the existing masses of waste.
One central piece in most of the solution concepts: the plastic shredder. The demand for this machine is big, and so is the price and the required energy – both scarce resources for the majority of the population.
Building up on the Precious Plastic Project, main aim of my project is to further develop the Precious Plastic Shredder to make it even more accessible to people or countries without reliable power. With a bicycle powered shredder I am trying to make it possible to easily crush a good amount of plastic with cheap and ‘green’ energy, which is independent from the power grid.
So I built the shredder, bought some old bikes and hometrainers and started testing.
Assembling the shredder
Connecting the shredder to a hometrainer – first test run!
This was (and still is) a lot about being in the workspace and experimenting with mechanical solutions (firstly), trying out a lot and learning about plastic types and properties, driving mechanisms, as well as forces and other aspects occuring when working with the combination of plastic, shredder and bicycle.
In the meantime I intended to animate the students/professors/visitors of our design department in Munich to separate their waste (especially the plastic waste from the general waste) and thereby contribute to an in-house recycling system.
Why? Firstly, for the simple reason to collect plastic for the shredder. But especially I also hoped to get people excited about recycling through bringing the recycling process closer to them – and the opportunity to turn the waste into material the designers can use again for their products.
So I installed plastic collection bins at the hotspots of our department.
Sorting and Shredding
In our project room I went more into detail: Collecting the plastic waste from the bins, cleaning the plastic and sorting into the specific plastic types (as it is very important to have clean and properly separated plastic types in the further recycling process in order to sustain a good material quality).
Work in progress!
As an injury forced me to stop working in the workspace AND this is a very big and complex topic in general, this is only an intermediate status. There is a lot more to find out and to improve.
It is about working on ways to turn the disposable plastic into something useful and precious on one hand and on the other hand it is about spreading the word and not only creating awareness but also kindle the activism of people to change their attitudes and really DO something about this.
Long and stony road to go – but I’m on it!