Published in Sustainablog.org
One of the ideas that pushed me towards a focus on waste issues was
that power of the word “waste” itself: when we attach it to an item – or
a class of items or materials – we render it valueless. But as we’ve
seen time and time
again, just a little innovative thinking can (re)discover the value in
That’s especially important for plastic waste, which
we’re literally swimming in at this point: this “waste” isn’t just
providing an eyesore, but draining the value from other resources in marine ecosystems.
Social enterprise The Plastic Bank
launched with a mission to not only “revalue” plastic that ends up in
our oceans, but to do so in a manner that provides economic opportunity
to some of the world’s poorest people. As we’ve seen before, poverty and
ocean plastic often end up in the same places; creating value for that
plastic creates a resource for people who desperately need one. The
Plastic Bank refers to this process as “turning waste plastic into
currency,” and the resulting recycled material as “Social Plastic.”
So far, the young company’s had success in terms of selling its product: LUSH Cosmetics
purchased Social Plastic pellets to manufacture their Sea Spray
bottles; other companies are also showing interest.
But founders David
Katz and Shaun Frankson want to put as much of the whole process as
possible into the hands of the people its designed to serve. Their first
innovation on this front: an open-source extruder that makes #D
printing filament from waste plastic.
Take a look:
Now, one commenter on this video already claimed that people in the
developing world really have little need for 3D printing. He’s right –
but that’s not the idea here. Rather, the Extruder gives people the
technology to turn “waste” into a commodity – filament – that they can
sell. Using the open source model insures that the technology can work
more efficiently for the needs of those people, as engineers with
knowledge of developing world limitations can adjust the design.
On top of the technology, the Plastic Bank is also in the process of
setting up collection centers for plastic waste. Next week, it will open
its first one in Lima, Peru (with many more to come, they claim).
least part of the idea here is to foster behavior that already exist:
the poor in Latin America already make some income from recycling
materials like metals, glass, and paper. Katz and Frankson want to
harness that behavior to enhance the economic opportunities for
recycling, and to work to address at least some of the ocean plastic
Pretty cool, huh? We’re just loving these little companies developing
technology to make use of plastic waste, so if you know of others, tell
us about them!