Find a solution for film waste (V4)
We Bori, a fashion designer from Romania, and Louis, a product designer from Germany, are trying to tackle the problem of recycling film waste. We are going to face many issues with sorting and shredding the film, the release of toxic gases and impurities like paper and aluminum. Both of us are not very familiar with recycling plastics so there will be lots of new experiences and things to learn. We are going to share all of our experiments here and would be very glad for any Tips, Help, Knowledge etc. 🙂
Bori & Louis
In the last two weeks we got to know our material to work on – plastic film. Through experimenting in different directions we are trying to tackle the problems with recycling films and film-like compound materials. After collecting plastic from the local shops and the PP Workspace we made up a rough system to pre-sort. There will be four different groups for now: Clearly labeled PE (HDPE, LDPE), plastics contaminated with paper and glue, films containing aluminum and other metals and unidentified plastics. (Let us know what you think about this :))The easiest to work with is the clean PE and to get to know our material this is where we started.
Plastic films are very hard to sort and separate from second materials. This is a fact we had to accept. So we will find a way to work with it. Finding clean PE is the easiest and will be the base material of our experiments. Metals and Papers are also easy to distinguish. So we stay left with a wild mix of all kinds of plastics, including the toxic PVC. Luckily PVC doesn’t float, so it is rather easy to separate it. Though we need to make a compromise also PS and PET sinks to the bottom and will be lost for our experiments at the moment. This also means using water and possibly polluting it. This is the way how we want to reduce the amount of PVC in the mixture and stay with a relatively clean mixture of PE and PP, these plastics work well with each other and we can process them further.
Using a very basic one axis shredder with a rough mesh we tried our luck and it worked surprisingly well and we got a fluffy mixture of plastic film. But after a few minutes, the blades warm up so much that the films start to get sticky and it slows down the process. After a while, we could observe a big amount of microplastics in the air. Both are circumstances which make it tricky to work on that way, but we are on it, luckily water can help us with that again, we are working on a system, which will help us to cool the shredder, keep down the microplastics, filters the water and help us sorting the shredded films. But more to that once we are able to properly test it. Despite these problems, we could collect a few buckets of different colors and materials – enough to start working.
We decided for the beginning to make simple material tests, with an oven, a sheet press, and simple square molds. The first test didn’t work well. The second better. We exchanged the baking trays to build our own mold out of wood and tiles with four individual chambers, so we can experiment faster and test different materials under the same conditions. With this new mold, it took us three tries until we managed to create consistent thin sheets. After that, we felt ready to test our mixed material and similar consistent sheets came out of the press. The sheets are between 2-4 millimeter, have a very shiny surface and are very flexible.
Our Plan how to go on now is to experiment with different mixtures of plastic, different surfaces, bigger molds, and three-dimensional objects. Once we got some things figured out, our research might be developing towards textile to create a wearable piece of clothing.
Come by for a visit to Eindhoven at the Dutch Design Week and if you have any ideas, tips or knowledge please write us a line!
Bori & Louis
Hey guys !
Have you thought of pushing further the fuse system with PE Films ?
You can easily fuse sheets together with cooking paper and an iron, you can create complex mono-material stuff! (sourcing tip : Logistics company use TONS everyday :p)
I also tried to mould PE Film, and results are more than satisfying (the only issue being how to quantify the needed amout of film to fill the mould without using a schredder _which as i can read from your experience is limited_)
are you sure that the label from carbonated drinks is made of PE (Coca Cola, Pepsi Co, etc)?
I think it’s PP plastic.
@imuh actually the shower curtains in our new workspace are made that way 🙂 but again it leaves us with very limited possibilities and we are rather trying to find solutions for everything which can’t be clearly defined!
I would like to see some of your experiments with PE films in case you have any pictures! 🙂
For quantifying we are trying to work with a cooling system, but we still need a few days to set that up!
@copypastestd I don’t think I mentioned anywhere what the labels are made of!
But thanks I was actually looking for that information 😀
I am not sure about all manufactures, but some of labels are PP.
As we continued our experiments with plastic films, we were curious if the shredding is truly necessary or it can just be skipped. We cut with scissors some transparent (probably, but not clearly labeled) PE bags and just placed them into the moulds, 20g each. In some of them we also mixed uncategorized plastic film shreds to see how different materials react.
We used the same oven to melt it, on 230 degrees, for 45min. After that we pressed it with a small basic sheet press.
As a result we got some very flexible thin sheets, some of them surprisingly beautiful, but because it was not shredded the edges didn’t turn out very nice. They still remained transparent, but even the smallest amount of dust is visible, so cleaning is crucial in this case.
So if you don’t have a very precise mold the shredding can be just skipped, but if you want to have bigger control over what’s happening during melting and pressing, it’s better to shred the film waste.
Melting metallised film
Metallised films are mostly used in the food industry for packaging potato chips, or cookies etc. From a quick research we found out that typically is made up of at least 4 different layers, and each has a very specific purpose. The innermost layer is almost always a polymer called BOPP, which stands for bi-axially oriented polypropylene. BOPP is also used in a middle layer, after a second layer of LDPE (low-density polyethylene). The outermost layer is usually a thermoplastic resin whose trademark name is Surlyn. So far, with our semi-industrial machines it is not possible to separate all these different materials from each other.
Another challenge with metallised film, at least for us, it was collecting. Because most plastic recycling companies don’t accept this kind of films, people, restaurants, bars etc. usually throw it away with the food waste. Even if you convince them to collect it separately, you get greasy bags with some food waste in it. So cleaning is necessary in this case as well.
After shredding them, we made a quick floating test to avoid melting PVC. Most of the shreds were floating. The next step was melting, we made some simple square tests. In one of the moulds we put 25g metallized film shreds, in the other ones we mixed it with 15 and 20 g of shredded PE. We left them in the oven for 45 min on 230 degrees, and pressed them after. The metallised film didn’t really melted, just got pressed a little bit, so it didn’t became a solid sheet. We are planning to make some more tests with a stronger sheet press. The mixed ones turned out somehow better. The PE was acting as some kind of glue and sticked together the metallised film shreds. But this might not be the best solution because of mixing together even more types of plastic. So these were only the first experiments with metallised films, let us know if you have any experience or ideas.
Melting shredded films in a metal mould
We decided to try melting clean transparent uncategorized film shreds in a metal mould. It didn’t turn out very well due to multiple difficulties and mistakes, so this post is more about what not to do. We had a metal mould for bowls, it was already tested for melting other types of plastic. The first challenge while melting films is that is very fluffy, it takes a lot of space. We needed 350 gram, somehow we managed to fit it in the mould. It quickly melted and shrinked. We left it in the compression machine for 40 min at 220°C (it was too much) . When we added pressure (also too much) the plastic started to run out, all over the oven, we noticed that it was already burned and it made a lot of fumes (luckily we had some masks on). After we let it cool down and cleaned the oven, we tried to separate the mold, but we couldn’t, because it was so sticky. So we put it back to 120°C for around 15min just to melt a little bit, and after around 2 hours of struggling we took off one side of the mould, but it was still stuck in the other one. The transparent films turned out dark greyish green (not sure if it’s burned or that’s how the color is in thicker layers), and on the sides were burned, and also the texture was not everywhere smooth.
oh my ! @barbola !
I had the same issue for quite some time; tried using different mouldreleasers… was always hardcore to unmould…. but then when i came to visit you guys at eindhoven, Nate showed me how he uses his moulds with the extrusion, he said that the most important part was for the mould to be COLD !
So i’ve tried that techniques with LDPE, HDPE, PP & PS and it works SO MUCH BETTER !
i would suggest you put it to melt in a teflon-coated dish, and only when it’s melted put it in your mould for compression; the result is SO SATISFYING !
(but then that implies to have the compression system out of the oven…)
Ironing mixed plastic film shreds
I wanted to make some experiments that does not require specific tools like moulds, sheet press or oven. I simply ironed the shredded plastic films between two baking paper.
I was working with uncategorised foils, probably with different types of plastics, with different melting temperatures, but surely it had a lot of LDPE , just they weren’t labeled. I started with the lowest temperature, but it wasn’t melting, so I tried with higher temperature (since is a basic Iron I don’t know the exact temperature). It melted quite nicely (even on the maximum temperature it didn’t burn) it was easy to remove it from the baking paper. The results were flexible sheets with an interesting texture.
The difficulty in this case is to control the thickness of the sheet, and to avoid holes. But in the same time is very easy to control the colors, if you want to create some kind of pattern or decorative surfaces.
I made experiments with transparent films, and also with the colorful ones. In the case of plastic films is hard to sort different colors, because most of the films are multicolored, they have a lot of writing, logos on them. I was trying to select more or less the primary colors but as you can see they were very mixed.
For the moment, I could imagine more likely artistic or decorative applications of these sheets.
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