‘We start by changing the mindset’

| Patricia Reyes

A dozen of UT-students with backgrounds in Engineering, Industrial Design and Business began building two plastic recycling machines a few months ago. Now functional, the machines were disclosed during an inauguration party held in the DesignLab last night.

Photo by: Gijs van Ouwerkerk

Behind the initiative is Lisanne De Weert, an Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering student who, shaken by plastic pollution statistics, felt the urge to do something about it. As a designer, De Weert believes a major cause for the issue lies in the lack of thought given to the materials used for new products.

‘90% of the plastic being produced right now is disposed within six months,’ she explained during the opening talk. ‘Designers often think only of the product cycle. It doesn’t matter where the material comes from, or where it goes.’ To contribute to undermining the problem, she thought of building two machines that would allow students to recycle plastic in their upcoming projects.

The machines

With the help of a dozen students from the UT and Saxion, De Weert built two machines. The first one’s a shredder, which has already produced plastic flakes out of computer keyboards and bottle lids. The second machine is a compressor, which can heat up the flakes and give them a new shape according to the mould being used. 

The recycling spirit was present during the building of the machines themselves. ‘Except for the blades and the jack, all the materials we used to build the machines are second hand. We could’ve bought them at a store, but we went looking for pieces on scrapyards and used the Marktplaats website to buy the motor and the oven,’ explained De Weert.

The machines’ design is based on Dave Hakken’s ‘Precious Plastic Machines’ project. A graduate from Eindhoven’s Design Academy, Hakken open sourced the technical drawings and uploaded video tutorials. ‘Translating these machines to reality was tougher than it looked on the videos,’ confessed De Weert. But with some dedication and the help of other recycling enthusiasts, the machines are now up and running in the DesignLab’s Workshop. 

What’s next?

De Weert is hoping the UT community will share their recycling ideas to put the machines to work. ‘If you have a use for them you can always come back to the DesignLab,’ she told the audience.

‘We hope to spark a little bit of enthusiasm about sustainability,’ said De Weert during the inauguration’s after drinks. ‘We start by changing the mindset of people here at the university, and in the future, these same people will be out there doing business and working in the industry.’