Introducing Precious Plastic Texas: A New Outlook on Fighting Pollution
by Camille Cater
Did you know there’s a massive vortex of plastic pollution floating in the Pacific Ocean that’s more than twice the size of Texas? That’s because 8 million metric tons of single-use plastic end up in the oceans every year. Discarded plastic is an extremely damaging pollutant that has infiltrated every corner of the globe- including our oceans, our landfills, and our bodies.
The good news is there’s a new organization at UT fighting this problem- Precious Plastic Texas. It is the newly formed local chapter of Precious Plastic, a global community working towards a solution to pollution by turning plastic waste into useful products. Precious Plastic Texas aims to bring city-wide awareness to waste recovery efforts and to fight plastic pollution from the bottom-up while making recycling more personal and accessible.
How? The founder of Precious Plastic, Dave Hakkens, has created an online repository of knowledge so anyone can build their own plastic recycling machinery to repurpose plastic waste in their community. From Spain to Thailand to right here in Austin, people are building their own machines from affordable and easily-accessible materials to turn waste into beautiful creations like sunglasses, flowerpots, tools, artwork, and more.
Precious Plastic has a revolutionary idea- to view plastic waste as a valuable resource. As stated in the Manifesto, “plastic is made to last forever but designed to be used for minutes… an incredible waste of potentials.” All plastic ever produced still exists on the planet, as it takes 1,000 years to decompose. Why not turn what would otherwise be waste into gorgeous, useful, recycled products which benefit the environment?
Numerous cities, countries, and multinational businesses have introduced bans on single-use plastic items, recognizing the dire need to reduce plastic consumption. While it is absolutely critical that production of disposable plastic is significantly reduced, Precious Plastic is the type of innovation needed for managing the vast amount of plastic waste plaguing the Earth. Precious Plastic is a powerful form of activism which offers a bottom-up solution to plastic pollution that is scalable and accessible for all sorts of communities and individuals around the world.
The Precious Plastic Texas team is driven by a common distaste for waste. The team is supported by Cockrell engineering faculty, sustainability groups in Austin, and general interest from the UT student body. The team is currently working on the shredder which shreds plastic waste into flakes, which will later become upcycled plastic products. The construction and recycling process is hosted by the UT Makerspace.
The team is rapidly expanding and looking for more people to get involved! There are engineering, research & development, outreach, digital media, finance, and events teams. If you’re interested, visit preciousplastictexas.com for more information and follow our social media at https://www.facebook.com/PreciousPlasticTX/ and @preciousplastictexas on instagram. But, the first step to contributing to this cause is reducing your plastic consumption!