University of Twente students recycle plastic with self-built 'waste machines'

On 13 March 2018, students will reveal ‘Precious Plastic Recycling Machines’ in DesignLab University of Twente. The result of weeks of welding, cutting, painting and assembling, as well as a shared passion: finding a solution for plastic waste.

The Precious Plastic Machines grind up plastic waste with a shredder. Using a compressor and an oven, the plastic flakes are melted down in a matter of hours to create ‘awesome, new and useful products’, says Lisanne de Weert, the project’s instigator. “Nothing can withstand the six-millimetre-thick blades when the 1.1 kW motor spins them around at sixty rotations per minute. I would not recommend sticking your hand inside,” she laughs.

Lisanne de Weert (23, master’s student of Industrial Design Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, far left on the first photo) spent weeks working on recycling machines in DesignLab, together with fellow students.

Circular thinking

De Weert has been working on the machines since November. She supervised build sessions in the DesignLab workshops, collected material – second-hand if possible – and promoted the initiative among her fellow students and organisations. That was not always easy. “Materials were either impossible to find or extremely expensive. Components do not always fit and assembly is always more difficult than the drawings suggest.” With help from students from various institutions – from the University of Twente to Saxion Enschede – and a variety of backgrounds – from business to engineering – the mission ultimately succeeded.

De Weert despises our “culture of disposal.” “We are losing our connection to products. Useable, scarce resources in the wrong shape are seen as nothing more than waste. As students, we recognise the value of this material. With these machines, you can move away from a linear production system. This not only helps us reduce our own ecological footprint, but it is also a step in the right direction towards global circular thinking – all from DesignLab University of Twente.”

Festive opening

The end result of the project will be unveiled during the Precious Plastic Machines Opening on 13 March (20:00 – 23:00) in DesignLab. De Weert invites her fellow students, University of Twente staff members, businesses and “anyone interested in improving sustainability” to attend the opening.

This project in DesignLab is part of the Precious Plastic initiative: a global community that works to counteract pollution caused by plastic waste. More information: Precious Plastic Machines Opening website.