The Business of Plastic
What Dave, and the precious plastic community is currently engaging in is what the stiff-neck-ties in the business world call “disruptive innovation.” Recycling has largely been an industry that has centered around exchanging commodities like, aluminum, iron, glass, and yes, plastic. Pick up the junk, extract the resource out of the junk, and sell the extracted resource to somebody who wants to make something with it. To engage in the recycling markets you have typically needed a massive amount of startup capital to obtain the facilities and the machinery to process the commodities. All this can now be turned upside down by a few hundred dollars of investment in simple machines and a little bit of determination. Not only can the upstream processes of collection and processing(shredding) be scaled down but we have now introduced the real ability to create “closed loop” markets for certain materials. IE broken plastic fork was picked up from the beach, plastic fork was shredded, melted and molded into new plastic fork, plastic fork is sold to restaurant, plastic fork is then discarded into precious plastics collection bin to be remade into a, you guessed it, plastic fork. Its super exciting to be a part of what could one day be called an industry changing revolution.
That being said some will face an inevitable dilemma. There will be a few who develop bombshell products that explode and command high demand, like those ridiculous fidget spinners. Those who do will have to choose to either scale up, or sell less. Scaling up will require creating a business that mirrors what most of the current recycling businesses look like today, which after the 50 plus years they have been working have only managed to perpetuate a model that recycles less than 10% of the total amount of junk we throw out around the world.
Selling less means you got into this business simply for the smiles and warm feelings and you don’t have to worry about paying rent, feeding your family and/or self, and don’t really hope to advance your economic future.
I would like to suggest one other alternative that for now is just an idea. The idea is to say that we are better of working together as a worldwide community than as individuals. There is enough trash to go around, and nobody should have to worry about there precious plastic neighbor cutting into their resources, at least not within the next 100ish years. In addition, to the forums, and the locator maps that Dave is working on, we should create a marketplace to provide solutions to problems of supply and demand. That is to say if @davehakkens builds some sweet new fidget toy and gets an order for 4 million units he could reach out to his fellow precious plastic friends in the Philippines and England because he can see that they have a large supply of PP and say guys I don’t have enough plastic to fill this huge order can you hook me up? And his Phillipino and English friends would say sure Dave we got your back. He could then reach out to his precious plastics buddies in France and Hawaii because he can see that they have good molding processes and say guys I don’t have enough injection molding capacity to fill this order can you hook me up? And his French and Hawaiian braddahs would say shoots brah we can totally help you out. All parties would be rewarded economically in the exchanges and we could continue to encourage as much recycling in as many places as possible through these mini processing and manufacturing facilities. At least two major hurdles up front that I can see would be transporting materials, and creating and sharing quality and consistent molds. Would love to hear what you think.
would be sweet if we could mobilize the entire Precious Plastic Network like that. Bt challenging with shipping, we want to avoid shipping stuff all over the world.. We are currently looking into an online marketplace though, focused on local trades 🙂 If anyone has more ideas on this topic keep them coming!
I was also recently thinking about trying to get Precious Plastic bins for local areas. Here in USA we have what I would consider a “decent” recycling program. At least in Rhode Island where I live.
The issue I see often is that local stores only have trash bins in front of their stores. Thus, it becomes a catch all for trash, and recycling, then all gets dumped in the bin.
True the mindset of people needs to adjust to look for recycling vs (some place to discard stuff you don’t want in your car). Alot of it is just laziness. Which can be assisted by doing monthly visit to various stores and ask to setup a table to spread some knowledge.
I see this campaign to assist in plastic recycling to become closer to the closed loop system the world needs. It just needs the consistent spread of knowledge, AND for recycling to be easier than throwing things in the trash. It would also help to show people accountability for not recycling as much as possible.
Once I have my shredder completed, I plan to do a local door to door in my local neighborhood on the weekends. As well as trying to setup a table at the CVS around the corner from my house; Higher traffic areas will help the spread of knowledge.
Dunkin Donuts is also on my list of local businesses to setup a table. I’ll have more to touch on after people digest this story… lol
Good thinking Keith @toochi84. We’ve had similar lines of thinking as we have analyzed different businesses and there plastic input demands. Imagine if you could create closed loop markets for prescription bottles for CVS. Customer buys a prescription, comes in for a refill, or a new prescription, drops the empty plastic bottle into a bin, or submits it to the pharmacy for a discount on their prescription. You pick those up, shred, wash, and remold them and sell the recycled bottles back to the pharmacy. The other positive to that type of recycling would be the fact you are limiting the availability of unused prescription drugs as people would have to dump the unused drugs and submit an empty bottle.
Howdy there! I’ve been working on starting a business here in Montana, USA. Because it is hard to get people to do the sorting themselves I have decided to specialize in filament based type 2 and 4 plastics. This would be the plastic grocery bags/trash bags that people use. I am trying to get precious plastic recycling bins set up at our local grocery stores so that people can bring in the old plastic bags when they are shopping for new groceries. This is a slower process since I’m a one man show working on the business. I really like the idea of the community being able to support each other for popular product orders. It might be possible to set up an online shop where people can order the products and then the closest precious plastic shop could make and ship the item so that we can avoid shipping items too far or internationally. I like your thinking @jtaloha and we need to keep the disruptive innovation coming!
@herowe. Have you posted your machine builds yet?
I also do like the idea of the community workspace/market and closest shipping idea. It’s a great plan and definitely possible with the ease of PayPal for payment processing. Could work on some sort of profit sharing percentage; maybe some sort of Co-op structure? I don’t know that end of things, but I’m sure there is someone else available out there that does! Keep it coming.
I have the shredder build and posted it awhile back. Being the broke college business student I am, I am waiting for the funding to build the other three machines. Even though I have the shredder built, I don’t use it too much. I’ve been focusing on the Type #2 and #4 filament plastic bags. I’ve been melting the Walmart type bags in a toaster oven and then pressing the molten plastic into molds. I’ve primarily been making coasters. I think that there is a large opportunity in this niche of plastic recycling since most recycling centers don’t accept the filament. I like the idea of melting on a larger scale and then pressing the plastic into recycled plastic lumber. I’ve made 2×4’s and other sizes of lumber which can be handy for general DIY projects. I would like to work my way up to making fencing because there is a large fencing market!
Toochi84, How are the Rhode Island operations coming along?
I have today and the next two days off from work. He has given me access to his SolidWorks 2017 which I am going to try to work some magic to reproduce the Shredder files into ANSI-Inch Standards. I think someone has done it already, but I cant seem to find their files. I vaguely remember if they even built a test unit. There is a water jet cutter here in the Mill where I work; I should be able to get all these pieces cut fairly cheaply. (I would like to be the NorthEast Distributor of Kits) but its going to depend on if the Boss where I work is open to me using his machine shop for Assembly and Testing purposes.
The shop where I work. 🙂
Nice shop! That is way more legit than the garage space that I recently got my hands on! I still have my shredder files that I used to get my shredder parts cut and I think I’m the person you’re looking for haha! I had trouble uploading the .dxf/.pdf files to the forums. Shoot me an email and I can send them your way so you don’t have to start from scratch!
This is what I’m working on this summer, so I should be free to reply most of the time and feel free to bounce ideas off me!
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