Plastic used to be a material of the future. Now, plastics are viewed negatively.
But looking at this school chair made entirely of flexible plastics changes the way we see our waste. This solution to convert non-biodegradable plastics into an educational solution is borne out of a partnership among communities within Metro Manila, Unilever Philippines, and the Villar SIPAG Foundation.
Sure, upcycled chairs and turning trash into things has been around awhile. But going from scrap to seats and beyond by adding an educational touch? That’s pretty cool.
So here’s the deal with plastics.
Not all plastics are made equal. Think of the bottles you toss in the recycle bin versus the candy wrappers you dispose of elsewhere. This difference—rigid versus flexible plastics—led to the misconception that not all plastics can be recycled.
See, those hard plastic bottles and containers can be recycled for profit. But what about plastic labels, plastic bags, wrappers, straws, and packaging? They’re just left behind on the streets or at dump sites, becoming one of the culprits behind our waste management problems.
The good news, though? Some barangays and communities, local schools, and subdivisions are segregating and collecting soft plastics like these to make these school chairs for public school students.
Now let’s take a look at how it’s made.
Recycling just went from merely eco-friendly to really innovative. Word on the street was, soft plastics were “just trash.” But now they’re here to stay, and in a more useful shape and form.
Once collected and deposited to the plastic recycling facility, the soft plastics are sorted. Sediments are segregated, like rocks, metals, food waste, and other organic items. That way, these little pieces don’t get caught in or destroy the machinery.
Crushing and Shredding
The plastics are put in a huge crusher and broken down into bits. After which, they’re taken to the shredder—a machine that breaks them down into even tinier pieces so they melt easier.
Washing and drying
Afterwards, they are washed thoroughly with water. This gets rid of the dirt and other refuse. Zero chemicals like soap or other treatments are added in this process to make sure the melting process isn’t as harmful to the air. The plastics are put in a dryer and then placed in sacks. One sack weighs about 4-5 kg!
Extrusion or melting
Here’s where it gets interesting. A machine heats up the soft plastics, now in small bits and pieces, to melting point. It turns molten and comes out of a metal pipe to be poured into molds.
Molding and pressing
Once molten, the plastics are pressed into molds that make up the parts of the school chair. Since they’re hot and fresh from the extruder, these parts are cooled again only in water.
Think of your favorite LEGO set. Or, for a more #adulting reference, a furniture package. That’s what happens here. The chair is, in fact, a simple assemblage of different plastic components, held together with interlocking pieces. That’s why it’s durable and simple to manufacture.
Now, how do you find your passion project?
It’s easy to just dispose of our trash. You may think one innocent toss doesn’t affect us. That is, until the plastics start clogging up our drains, making their way into our oceans. But we live in a world and time where one scrap in the wrong disposal area can make a huge impact on the environment. But let’s turn it around. Now we know that both recycling and segregating plastics can make an even bigger impact than just saving our environment—it makes huge waves for our communities, too.
There’s way more to recycling than throwing your trash in the proper waste bins. Think a little harder for a sec. If there were a way to turn trash to treasure—or something close—wouldn’t you do it?
What would you innovate if you had all the resources? How would you make a change in your community? Nothing’s stopping you. Dream big and achieve greater with us at Edukasyon.ph!