Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling

In a number of my Dyneema rigging posts I’ve referred to using HDPE to reduce friction and chafe where dyneema comes into contact with the mast or the deck.

I’d found a straightforward supply of HDPE as rods and sheets at Direct Plastics. However, we have just discovered a much better option. It turns out that it is relatively straightforward to turn our rubbish into new bits for the boat.

There are a ton of videos on how to turn HDPE waste into new products, even on a tiny scale (see Brothers Make on YouTube).

Therefore, we could potentially collect all our waste on the boat that is marked with this symbol:

into chafe avoiding parts for our rigging as well as lots of other useful boat bits for example:

  • Cleat boots (stop you hurting your toes on the rope cleats around your deck)
  • Chafe pads where ropes cross the deck or toerail
  • chopping boards
  • gratings for the shower room, for the cockpit
  • soap dishes
  • plastic carabiners for hooking light things up around the boat
  • chocks to hold things in place in lockers

Then we started to go further. Storage and disposal of waste is a real problem for cruisers. Supposing all plastic waste is washed, paper labels removed, sorted by type and colour and then shredded on board. Because with the exception of PET (1 in the recycling symbol) most plastics can be shredded and used to create new things (with varying properties). Suddenly all you have to store is tiny plastic pellets, which at any time can be made into things you can use or sell. You can even melt them into moulds to create dense “bricks” for the most compact storage – which can then be carved or melted to be used in other projects at a suitable time.

Then we went a bit further. While we won’t have the space or energy surplus for machines that have the capacity to run a full-time recycling business that collects and processes rubbish from a whole community, we would have enough capacity to be able to help out other cruisers with their waste.

Beyond that one of the common struggles we see many cruisers having is with the plastic they find on every beach. No cruiser has the capacity to store the plastic waste they can pick up very quickly every time they visit a beach. Plus even if it is collected then the small remote communities have no way of dealing with the waste (and cruisers often have to pay to leave rubbish). Of course, as we know, few large communities anywhere in the world are properly recycling much plastic waste. Too much gets shipped abroad, incinerated or buried rather than recycled.

So the goal becomes to find the right scale machines for the key tasks of shredding and injection moulding. The larger pieces can be created by either melting and pressing into a mould that we can make from wood (or possibly thickened epoxy); or by cutting/shaping as you would a piece of wood.

It looks like the Precious Plastic Universe is a potentially fantastic resource. Although their latest V4 machines are too big for us, there still seems to be a lot of support for their older/smaller machines. And it is all Open Source and Free.

We are loving this idea. Being able to make things to repair/upgrade our boat from our own rubbish is Sustainable heaven 🙂 But far more the chance to reduce the footprint of our cruising as well as that of others – in fact by being able to clear rubbish from beaches we end up with a really positive impact.

5 thoughts on “Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling

  1. Microvist Tobias February 14, 2021 / 12:27 pm

    That Precious Plastic Universe community seems pretty amazing. I imagine it would especially useful for communities where recycling facilities are more lacking. Would be even more amazing to see a floating moving recycling hub cleaning up beaches as it goes. Really interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • dave42w February 14, 2021 / 1:40 pm

      Totally agree. I think there is huge potential for boat based collection and processing of waste. Sorting while collecting surely reduces the number of times waste has to be handled. Shredding before needing to store the waste is surely more efficient.

      Like

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