Dave Hakkens and how to do your own plastic recycling

Posted on 18 December 2017.

Thanks to this young Dutch designer’s DIY and open source Precious Plastic project, anyone can make objects from their own recycled plastic.

In addition to being DIY, Hakkens' approach is open source and favors short circuits.

For design enthusiasts, Dave Hakkens is a familiar name. In 2013, this young Dutch designer, then 25 years old, made a name for himself with his Phonebloks - a modular smartphone designed to limit the amount of electronic waste being produced.
In its wake, Google and Motorola announced the launch of a similar project, known as Ara, which eventually came to nothing. Dave Hakkens continued his experiments amalgamating creation and recycling, and today, at 29, he’s back with the Precious Plastic project.
The project has come a long way. In 2010, Hakkens was studying at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. "I made objects there that were meant to be both beautiful and functional," he says, his cap clamped on his head as always. “Then I started watching documentaries about the major issues facing our planet - pollution, wasted energy and wasted food."


One documentary in particular, The Story of Stuff, especially hit home with him: "It's about how things are used, how they are repackaged, and about what happens when you throw them in the trash. Only 10% of all global plastic is recycled! The rest ends up in the oceans, in a landfill or is incinerated. I thought that was a little bit more important than making something just beautiful."
For his graduation project, Dave Hakkens decided to create Precious Plastic, a small-scale factory that allows people to recycle plastic for themselves: a shredder turns plastic waste into small flakes, which are melted and then reconditioned using presses and molds.

"The first thing I had to make was a lamp or something like that. I had to please my teachers!" jokes the young Dutchman today. This lamp is version 1 of Precious Plastic.

Open source and short circuits

Second step: in addition to being DIY, Dave Hakkens' approach is open source and favors short circuits.
"Plastic pollution is not only immense, but above all, it is produced everywhere. So it has to be recycled in the four corners of the world too," says the designer, who decided to make all his information notices open access, "so anyone can download them for free." The notices are accompanied by instruction videos on YouTube.

Now from Chile to Japan and from Kenya to the Ukraine more than 200 people work in some 80 Precious Plastic workspaces. "The most important thing is to show how it works. Then people can do what they want with it," continues Dave Hakkens.

And the designer adds: "Some people will make jewelry, plates, smartphone covers, even beams for use in building. It depends on where you are in the world and your needs. A Spaniard has made a water filter: you screw it on your carafe and you can filter out the chlorine. I really like the idea."

A 40,000 strong community

In recent weeks, Dave Hakkens and Precious Plastic have entered the third stage of the project - the community, estimated to be around 40,000 people. An interactive world map has been developed to identify members of the community and the workspaces that have been established all over the world.

"If there are several of you in the same city doing it, like in a big city like Paris, the map identifies you so you can perhaps collaborate," he says.

The Precious Plastic website also has a "Forum" section where "builders" can chat, and a marketplace, the "Bazaar". "People can buy and sell the products they’ve made, buy parts to make machines, and even a container if necessary.”
Among the 40,000 people in the Precious Plastic community, some volunteered to go from Iceland or Mexico to the Netherlands to help Dave Hakkens develop his concept. This generosity doesn’t seem to greatly surprise him: "When you give a lot, people end up giving a lot in return", philosophizes the designer.


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Matthieu Rostac