We need to go 2 steps back to go forward
I have been thinking a lot about this, and I think that this project is starting somewhat in the middle.
What I mean is, it still uses quite a lot of energy and electricity to operate the machines to do the shredding and the melting, and some of the countries where the plastic is piling up, the people do not have enough electricity to light their homes, let alone operate a shredder or electric oven for melting.
So I think the “Next Steps” for this project would be to build ways to also recycle paper, wood, and food waste into generating energy, so that then, with available energy, the people can then use it to light their own homes but also operate a recycling facility.
The two could work together, you see, in recycling. One station collects paper, wood, cotton fiber, food waste, dead grass, leaves, and dead trees from, say flooded or destroyed areas, and burns it to create energy to run a turbine to continually produce the energy needed to shred the mountains of plastic.
I know in here in California the University of California at Davis is working to develop bio-methane “digesters”, where food waste, human waste, animal waste, and yard waste such as leaves and branches and paper products are put into a large tank, and small biota break it all down in a vat to produce methane. The methane is then collected off the top and put through a burner much like natural gas to create electricity. This is a way to reduce the amount of carbon materials being put into the landfills here in California. There are already some companies using this concept, such as an onion packaging plant that uses the onion skin waste and “digests” it all into methane gas to generate all the electricity needed to operate the machines that process the onions for packaging. So it would be a big thought to include paper and food waste into the operation of the plastic recycling facility, so that the facility then has renewed and recycled energy to operate the machines.
I also think we are thinking too small concerning product output. The biggest need around the world is still housing for people in poverty. I know in countries and places like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, flooding destroys every year the temporary make-shift houses made of cardboard and plywood. A BIG idea would be to use recycled plastic to make “The House of The Future” much like the old 1960s concept Monsanto had created for Disneyland Park. The concept is still good — making self-contained houses out of plastic shells that can float and be tethered to a concrete anchor, so that when the floods come, the plastic house floats above the flood waters and is beached when the flood waters recede, but the people do not lose their home. Such plastic shell houses would be strong against heavy hurricane winds as well as insulated from weather temperature changes. I think another “next Next Step” would be to design and make panels that fit together in the “Geodesic Sphere” design, such as triangular panels that fit into a geodesic dome for building stronger buildings for homes in remote locations, geodesic spheres that can be easily put together and yet be strong to withstand the weather elements. That plus energy from recycling bio-waste and putting it into energy for plastic recycling production of such panels for building would certainly bring countries up-to-date.
Right now in California we are also experimenting with mixing plastic with sawdust to create composite materials for building uses such as decks, flooring, fencing, and decorative wall panels.
We are also thinking too small in terms of shredding plastic and making small products, when small production facilities need to shred enough plastic to supply the original plastic manufacturers of plastic products to close that gap between used plastic product and new plastic product. Small recycling companies starting here need to think of really shredding and producing a clean source material for plastic companies to purchase and use in their production of new products. One of the biggest problems with recycled plastic is contamination of the source materials with PET mixed with HDPE. Small companies really need to ensure not to mix ANY PET with HDPE in their shredded end product. Producing a clean end product is essential for selling it back to large production companies. But think bigger, and contact local production companies that make plastic products from raw materials and offer to sell them your recycled, shredded plastic to begin to close that gap between used, thrown-away, and new products.
I am really paying attention to this as I have been recycling and re-using for years and have felt like my little efforts were too small to make a big difference. But this is heartening to see a desire for big change. Let’s build the future using the recycled trash of the past, and let’s make it cool to do so!
I just joined the forum and was searching on uses for PET and came across these great ideas. This would be great to research! There is a lot of potential for a zero waste, off-grid living solution here. @enntheflowergirl I am surprised to so few responses to this. Once I start acquiring/making tools for processing, I want to start exploring some of these things to help those who need these solutions.
Those are some really great insights, i really like the idea of making composites, but you have to be aware that it is no longer recyclable by traditional means, sas it is no longer pure plastic
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