TL:DR – Diyode is building a series of open source machines for recycling plastics. In January, I’m planning on travelling to Haiti to install them in a foster care home so the residents can turn trash into useful and saleable items.
A little while ago I got an email from my cousin, Sarah. Sarah is a midwife working in Jacmel, Haiti. She trained in the Philippines, but re-located to Haiti in 2008, looking to go where she could do the most good. 8 years later, her clinic in Haiti is going strong, and the foster care home she started in the wake of the 2010 earthquake is about to move into new digs. You can read more about her work there at the Olive Tree Projects website.
The reason she wrote to me that day was that she was looking for a better way to deal with the deluge of plastic waste in Jacmel. In years past, she had collected it, and sold it to a plastics recycling company in Port au Prince. With the plummeting price of crude, that’s no longer a viable option. That’s when Sarah ran across a project out of The Netherlands called Precious Plastic developed by a guy named Dave Hakkens. Precious Plastic has developed a series of open source machines designed for low tech recycling of hard plastics. With a little modification these machines can be adapted for life in Haiti. Sarah wanted to know if Diyode would be interested in helping to build and modify these machines.
The machines that we are planning on building for Haiti include a shredder, an extruder, an injection moulding machine and a compression oven. The shredder will allow us to take hard plastic in the form of bottles, packaging, or other waste and shred it down into small pellets that can then be used in the other machines. The extruder will take the pellets and turn them in the long strands of various shapes, and possibly even hose. The injection moulding machine will make various other shapes by injecting molten plastic into prebuilt forms machined out of metal. The compression oven is a simpler machine that would allow us to make things like plates and bowls. Altogether, they should allow the citizens of Jacmel to turn the garbage that’s hanging around the city, often littering the streets, into more useful things that they can use in their houses or even sell.
There will be several challenges that we need to overcome in order to make this project a reality. First of all, the machines need to work very reliably and in a very high humidity environment. Secondly the electrical supply in Haiti is spotty at best. We need to make sure that the machines will be useful even if electricity isn’t reliable. This means making sure the machines like the shredder will work on bicycle power, or other alternate forms of power. The extruder, although it will always need electricity to heat the barrel, could also use human power to turn the barrel driveshaft. We also need to adapt the machines to be field reparable using materials easily found in Haiti.
So, over the next six months we have several challenges ahead of us. First we need to raise the money to pay for all materials will need to build these machines. My current estimate is will need about $500 to $700 for each machine. Our plan is to build one set of the machines that will stay in Guelph and be used to innovate further, and help educate people about plastics recycling. We will then build a second set of machines that will travel down to Haiti with me in January or February. These need to be able to pack down for easy shipping and be assembled and welded together once we get there. The original designs from Precious Plastic call for salvaged specialized machinery that simply isn’t available in Haiti. Some of the gear boxes would be very hard to replace or repair if they break. Our goal is to redesign these components so they are made of very common materials like bike gears or washing machine parts and can be repaired with very few specialized skills.
Then there is the work of determining the best way to recycle unknown and waste plastics in an environment where many of the regulations may not of been followed in the manufacture. This means finding reliable ways of identifying what kinds of plastics were dealing with, sorting them into available types and then determining appropriate uses for the known and unknown plastics. For instance, the extruder could be used for developing filament for 3-D printers, but 3-D printer filament needs to be very high-quality and of a very specific known plastic type so that the extruder can be set the right temperature. Plastics found on the street may not be able to be sorted to provide the quality needed. However, filament made of mixed plastic could still be used for other things, weaving or tiedowns, for instance.
One of my goals is to modify the extruder so that it can extrude useable pipe for irrigation, but for that to be truly useful, we also need to be able to make injection moulds for pipe joiners and splitters. In all likelihood, once we start playing, we’ll find other uses for these plastics.
So really we have lots of fun challenges ahead of us in the next few months and lots of interesting things to do in the shop to make this a reality.
So, if you’re interested in getting involved, maybe helping out with the build or the design of the machines, or even if you are just able to contribute some funds to be able to cover the cost of developing and shipping of these machines, please contact us. We would be very excited to work with you.
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