Plastic, even supposedly recyclable plastic, poses a significant environmental problem. “Plastic doesn’t really get recycled in the U.S.—it’s kind of a myth,” said JoJo Farina (C’23), adding that only about 9% of plastics that are put in recycling bins actually get recycled.
Former Maker Hub manager Don Undeen told Farina, a member of the Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN), about Precious Plastic. Precious Plastic is a network seeking to solve the plastic waste problem by providing tools and knowledge to build machines to recycle plastic. They also provide support for local organizations to collect plastic waste, operate the machines, and use that recycled plastic to create new products.
Farina and GREEN received a grant from the Social Innovation and Public Service (SIPS) Board to buy plastic-recycling equipment in February 2020. The pandemic and campus shutdown paused the project, but GREEN ultimately used the grant to purchase a plastics shredder and a compaction oven that will melt the plastic shreds and form them into a new product. The machines were delivered on March 22nd and Farina unboxed and assembled them with current Maker Hub manager David Strout.
The plastic recycling machines are now located in the Maker Hub. “They had the space, and they produce plastic with 3D printing,” Farina explained. After troubleshooting the machines, GREEN hopes to also bring the machines to the Georgetown farmers’ market on Wednesdays to collect plastics and do demonstrations.
Exactly how the recycled plastic will be re-used is still to be determined. “We were thinking of dorm garbage cans, because it’s a simple shape and a cool turnaround of those products,” Farina said. More applications may well be developed as the project continues.