Make Stuff, Do Good — first steps
Or: how to start remotely a project that cannot be remote at all
Recap: I’ve decided to invest some time and money into building my own plastic recycling workshop. Read about it here.
Where to start?
Roughly a few hundred ideas have crossed my mind since I have decided to start this project. But I’m a practical person and I know I can’t tackle every single one of them at the same time, so I started with the stuff I can do from the other side of the world. And being a digital designer, well… of course, my first thought was to buy a domain.
I bought makestuffdogood.com on Squarespace for $20, as my first initial investment. This will be a good idea whether I go through with the project or not, since it sums up my ethos in general and I can always use it for something else.
As a rule of thumb, I don’t want to spend money if I can avoid it. If I were to buy everything upfront I will both spend too much and get overwhelmed. One thing at a time.
With this in mind, mo point in making the website quite yet, I only get 14 days free trial and it won’t be useful until I’m on the ground, ready to go.
I’ve created a brand new (free) email address on google — email@example.com
With this email, I have created a new Medium account and started writing my journal, which you are reading now.
Doing some research, taking some decisions
I know absolutely nothing about plastic apart from the fact that it’s basically everywhere and we’re trying to have less.
I don’t know how to work with it nor the properties of different types of plastic. In fact, I skipped the Methods and Techniques of Industrial Production at college (I have a BA in Industrial Design) because I was in Portugal for my Erasmus exchange program. Do I regret it? No. But now I need to catch up.
Luckily, preciousplastic.com has done all the heavy lifting and created neat tutorial videos. I’ve binged all of them and I feel like I got a pretty solid theoretical starting point and made some decisions.
I will start with two machines: shredder and extrusion machine
There are four machines available, you can either make them or get them done by someone using the open source blueprint available on preciousplastic.com
The shredding machine is quite important because it makes the new raw material.
The extrusion machine is the production machine I prefer, because:
- I can start making things immediately, even without a mold
- It makes a nicely blended solid colour rather than a multicolor output, which is more in line with my taste and I can have more control over it
- with the right nozzle, it makes filaments that can be used to load a cheap 3d printer
Make or build?
I have decided to buy the machines form Opolab, the Precious Plastic workshop in Porto. It’s close enough and they have made quite a few of them. I will need to order them a month in advance, during which I will mst likely set up the workspace. The total cost will be around €2500, so this will be my biggest investment.
A small 3d printer will cost €200 and €400
Setting up a workshop
The other big investment will be the workspace. To start, I will look for a small, cheap space where I can start experimenting and getting used to the machines, the material, and the process. What I need is:
- a location where I can be noisy
- access to a bathroom
- enough space to fit 2 machines, a shelf for the raw material, a work table and some bag to store, wash and sort the pre-shredded plastic
I looked around Lisbon and Almada, but the prices are a bit far from what I can afford for experimenting. So I will start looking somewhere in the countryside, and maybe I’ll be able to find a one bedroom flat with a garage where I can start off. The problem may be access to the actual plastic, but I can always rent a van and visit a landfill I guess…
Learning from other people
Since I’m going to Thailand next, I will visit the workshops in Bangkok (Precious Plastic Bangkok), and Chiang Mai (BOPE). I’m also visiting Myanmar so I could see Chu Chu in Yangon. Once I’m back in Europe I will definitely pay a visit to Opolab in Porto and probably try to get an interview with the guys who founded Happenstance, the now-closed workshop in London. These are all cities I was planning to visit anyway, so that will work nicely and should give me some good insight before I make some more substantial investment.
As it is good practice, I will put together a discussion guide so I won’t waste too much of their time, but I’m hoping they’ll be willing to share a lot of information!
An alternative path
I realized that Precious Plastic has won a €300.000 award and they are putting together a team to scale up. Incidentally, they are also looking for a UI designer to collaborate with a UX designer and a developer, so… of course I applied because why not!
They replied to my email and I will have a call with them next week.
They offer a place to sleep and two meals a day, I will need to pay for everything else — so if I get the position I guess it will be my way to give back!
That will be a pretty neat way into the project. It’s for a minimum of three months and if I’m still into it by the end of it, I can then resume my workshop plan.
And if I don’t get it I’ll stick to my original plan.
The next post will probably be a dump of ideas to develop the project once I’m ready to produce some stuff. If you somehow found this diary, well… stay tuned.