A group of Monash University engineering students have created a portable plastic recycling unit that is small enough to fit on the back of a ute, which aims to help people recycle and repurpose their plastic waste right at their own home a lot easier.
With the unit, bottles, containers, trays and plastic bags can be broken down and transformed into anything that can be made in a mould, such as phone cases, bowls and structural beams.
“It would be the dream for everyone to be able to recycle their own plastic and reduce our waste,” Gabi Newman, project materials manager from Monash University, told ABC News.
The engineering students took on the challenge of making a mini-recycling unit as part of the global Precious Plastic initiative, which is an open-sourced recycling project that allows anyone to create their own plastic recycling facility.
The Monash team wanted to make a portable plant that could be toured around schools and workplaces to raise awareness of how easy and important it is to recycle plastic.
Comprised of four small machines, the unit first shreds hard plastic into pellets before they are melted down. The melted plastic can then be passed through an extruder to make filament for 3D printers, a compressor to make objects such as bowls and structural beams, or an injector that squeezes plastic into moulds.
“We can make any product pretty much that’s made from a mould,” Newman adds.
“So that means bowls, phone cases, we can even make gears. We’ve just found out we can laser cut, which unlocks numerous potential to make a whole range of products.”
“The main aim of this initiative is to educate people about the ease and necessity of recycling plastic. The reason it’s such a small unit is so we can pack it up and put it on a ute and transport to wherever we want.”
The team, made up of undergraduate and masters students from a range of different engineering disciplines, will now continue to refine, test and professionalise the unit.
A number of primary schools and companies have already contacted Monash University to ask the team to exhibit their work.