July 11, 2017

First Precious Plastic workshop in China 🇨🇳

Adele (@adelef) & friends built, presented and created workshops with Precious Plastic machines at YOMO in Shanghai.

We’ve reached out to Adele & friends to ask a few questions about to their experience of building the machines, finding capital and creating recycled products in China (not the most recycling prone country on the planet, yet 😡). Here is a little recap.

What is your story?
We are a bunch of makers, building Precious Plastic machines in the first hackerspace of China. I (Adele) started working on Precious Plastic last year, at a point we got up to 7 people working on this- now we are four, very dedicated and excited to be working with plastic. We didn’t knew each other before starting this project and became friends while recycling plastic. <— (so Precious Plastic 😃)


What is your background?
Adele is a product designer from France while Andrea is an engineer from Barcelona. Both of us are sensitive about environmental issue and trying to find creative solutions. Adele decided to start this project because while trying to become zero waste she noticed the huge amount of plastic used in Shanghai with little ways of recycling it. Since a kid, Andrea have been cleaning up beaches and picking up plastic waste everywhere she spots it.


When did you start?
I (Adele) first came to the hacker space in april 2016 to present the project and build a team as well as find a way to finance it. Now a year and a bit later we have a strong team, a full set of Precious Plastic machines and lots of ideas to recycle plastic in Shanghai.

How did you make it happen?
We started investing our own money. Adele asked every team member to put 500RMB (64 euro) towards paying for the costs of building, then we were invited to do events and workshops which helped to pay for costs, but still it wasn’t cheap or easy to build- particularly the shredder. We then started to look for sponsors (we meet coca cola; Unilever; inditex) but weren’t successful. At some point Andrea and I had a bit more money saved up and decided to contact a factory to help us to speed things up. Then we got invited for the YOMO which further helped us cover costs.

Tell us about YOMO?
We were invited to showcase a set of machine at YOMO shanghai. YOMO is a section for kids about STEAM education within GSMA Mobile World Congress Shanghai. We held workshops with kids, teach them how to recognize different plastic types linking them to their daily life, then we shred some plastic, melt it and compress it into small bowls that they could bring back home. The fair attracted about 70 000 visitors, we showed Precious Plastic videos, talked with people from different countries and industries as well as kids and parents. People loved the project highlighting the real need for creating awareness and empower recycling in Shanghai. <— (Thanks for holding high Precious Plastic name in China, we’re not doing so well there so far 😭 )


What is your main goal while working with Precious Plastic?
Our goal is to create awareness in China about disposable plastic. Setting up a Precious Plastic workshop will help us provide a tangible hands on experience to people. Nowadays we see it primarily as an educational tool. We still need to fully figure out our future plans.


Where do you see yourself one year from now?
We are currently working on developing a shredder power by a bike (or two) and push the project at a bigger scale in remote areas in China.

What do you want to make with the machines?
We are not 100% sure yet, currently working on prototypes and playing with molds. So far we mainly did jewellery but we’d love to make Iphone cases and glasses because everybody goes crazy with iphone cases in China and there is also a real need for glasses 😎



What kind of problems did you encounter while building Precious Plastic?
Finding capital at the beginning was not easy, it took time while the motivation of the team slowly went down. Once we got our hands on the laser cut parts for the shredder (not so easy to assemble 😅) we had a hard time to find a good motor and ended up putting it on a bike. Now that the machines are ready we have some issues with the injection machine as the mold we made doesn’t really work so far ☹️.

And successes?
Going to the YOMO event was a huge success for us. We meet lots of people in a short period of time. Lots of this people were here to make business, they wanted to buy the machines and set up workshop in their hometown. Today I finally make a flat board of plastic and to me it was a success. <— (Well done, we know the feeling 🎉 )


Do you have a last message for our community?
加油! (Jia you) it is literally “put some oil” and means “let’s go” in Chinese.