Disorient Plastic Recycling

From Disorient wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Disorient Plastic Recycling aka DPR (pronounced deeper)

Cell Lead: The Eye


The Disorient Plastic Recycling Lab

After decades of discussions, planning and good intents, we are still in what feels like the Stone Age of plastic recycling both on the macro (planetary) level where less than 10% of all plastic products are being recycled and the micro (Disorient) level.

We strive to eliminate our reliance on single-use plastics. A lasting solution demands that we break the table-to-landfill cycle and weave plastic recycling deep into our lives by turning it into a practice, a ritual. While we work on that, our goal is to recycle 100% of the plastic that we use at Disorient events. The Disorient Plastic Recycling Lab was created to help us understand the problem and design solutions for our camp's plastic recycling goal.

Our plan for Phase I

1. Keep it simple. Disorient is action-oriented. DOers learn by doing. We start with a simple process and refine our strategy as we learn from experience.
2. Use what's readily available. The chosen recycling process should not require water, chemicals, additives, adhesives, or fillers. Ultimately, it should not require electricity either but we will probably use some electricity at the beginning to jumpstart the process.
3. Minimal pre-processing, at least at the beginning. We need to find ways to make recycling entertaining and intellectually rewarding, in other words, we need to amplify its feel-good factor and make it viral. Starting a recycling practice should be as easy as possible with only minimal sorting, cleaning or pre-processing. There are arguments for pre-processing (more on this below) but at our stage of recycling (remember, we're in the Stone Age) we just need to keep it simple to get started. We can get fancy later.
4. On-site, on-scale and self-reliant. The transportation of discarded plastics accounts for a large part of plastic-related pollution. Ironically, current recycling strategies involve polluting the air further by shipping huge amounts of waste around the planet... to burn it there. Following our DIY ethos, plastic recycled by Disorient is not moved to another facility across the planet or even across the playa. It is reconfigured on site with a solution tailored to our goal.
5. Distributed. To have a better chance to reduce our contribution to the landfill, plastic recycling needs to become easy, hyper-local and sexy. Based on point #4 above, the solution should be open-source and easily replicable by other individuals/camps/communities. The current centralized industrial solutions need to be balanced and possibly replaced with decentralized individual solutions. We need to address the problem where it happens: in everyone's backyard. Small solutions distributed widely.
6. Start with Disorient. In recent years Disorient camp at Burning Man has welcomed north of 200 campers per year. Our plan is to design and implement a system that will be able to address the plastic recycling needs of all our campers.

Types of plastics

Pre-sorting before shredding requires being able to identify the different types of plastic. There are 7 main types of plastics to be considered for our recycling purpose.

To determine which type of plastic a container is made of, you should look for its Resin Identification Code (RIC), which is the number (between 1 and 7) within the triangular recycling symbol located on each plastic product. This plastic recycling code system was introduced by the Plastics Industry Trade Association (SPI) in 1988 to assist communities that were implementing recycling programs.

What's the difference between resin and plastic?

Reasons for pre-sorting

During our chat at the Sun Contemporary gallery opening on 20240404 in Bali, Sam (founder of Sungai Watch with more than 2000 tons of plastic collected to date in Indonesia and counting) recommends separating plastics before compressing them. His argument is that once plastics are mixed, they are no longer recyclable. There are dozens of different types of plastic out there but 7 categories have been given recycling codes which makes sorting a less daunting task. Sam claims that plastic bags are the most common type of plastic waste in Bali. The different types of hard plastics are usually more difficult to identify.

Note on PVC from Slide Products:
Polyvinyl Chloride is one of the most universally used synthetic plastic polymers and comes in two basic forms: rigid (RPVC) and flexible. The rigid form is used in construction for pipes, doors and windows, while the flexible PVC is used in applications such as electrical cable insulation, inflatable products and many applications where it mimics rubber.

Despite its common use, PVC poses notable ecological challenges. It is notoriously difficult to recycle due to its high chlorine content and the presence of hazardous additives, which can potentially release toxic chemical emissions.

Resin Identification Code (RIC)

ASTM D7611-13 provides codes for the six most common resin types, with a seventh category created for all other types. ASTM D7611 now uses a solid equilateral triangle symbol (no longer a recycling logo) surrounding a numeral from 1 to 7 that defines the resin type used in the product’s packaging. Contrary to popular belief the number does NOT indicate the number of times the resin was recycled.
D7611-13 RIC system.png


Recycling infographic .jpg

Resin identification codes Wikipedia article.


The first step of the process is to break-down plastic objects to be recycled into little chips. For this, we need a shredder.

The shredding part of the process requires more investment since the shredder itself is a relatively expensive piece of equipment starting around 1,000 USD in Asia and around 2,000 USD in the US.

Our first Plastic Shredder

20240315: We have selected and purchased this shredder. DPR goes live at CCXii upstate NY at the end of May.

Early research on shredders

We use a plastic shredder like this one (Tokopedia, Indonesia) or that one (Amazon, USA) to turn mixed plastics into chips.

We plan to start with a shredder rather than a granulator. Granulator vs shredder: what is the difference?

Some US companies that provide industrial shredders (for reference only since we will start with a shredder smaller than the ones those companies provide): Lanrryy Machinery, Franklin Miller, Vecoplan

Example of plastic shredder at the Museum of Space Available, Bali, Indonesia, 2022:
20221003PlasticRecyclingSolution1.jpg 20221003PlasticRecyclingSolution2.jpg 20221003PlasticRecyclingSolution3.jpg


Our first Press

20240516: We have purchased this 20 ton press. DPR goes live at CCXii upstate NY at the end of May 2024.

Early research on press

We could use a brick compressor like this one or maybe that one with a mold to form the plastic chips into bricks possibly following this ByFusion example which uses steam.

Compression can also be achieved with a jack. The compression mold is a one-time investment. Using a 2 ton press will work ok. 12 ton or 20 ton or 100000 lbs presses may give better result. What happens if we use a 4000 ton press to create our plastic bricks? How much pressure do we need to create our objects?

Heat could be used to soften/melt the plastic chips to help the compressing process. This could allow us to use a less powerful press. We could leverage the readily available heat stored by a large metal object such as our shipping containers exposed to the sun to melt the shreds of plastic places inside the metal mold. In the desert, we could also explore solar ovens. How much heat would we need?

20240310: IceCream warns about poison released when melting plastic. Outgassing is a concern and needs to be researched. What kinds of gas are being emitted? How toxic are those gases? Do different resins emit different gases? Toxicity levels indoor versus outdoor? Is outgassing a concern at our relatively small scale? What measures should be put in place to avoid adverse health effects?

RIC Risks.jpg

Examples of brick compressor and molds

BrickCompressor.jpg BrickMold1.jpg BrickMold2.jpg

Our first brick

D24 recycled plastic brick: a souvenir
"D24" debossed on one side
Dimensions: 20cm x 10cm x 5cm

Our first product is a proof of concept. We think of the brick as a souvenir more than a physical building block.

20240229.D24CompressedBrickModel.1.jpg 20240229.D24CompressedBrickModel.2.jpg

Human-powered recycling set

Example of human-powered plastic shredder and brick compressor at Monsieur Spoon in Pererenan, Bali, Indonesia, August 2020:
2021PlasticRecyclingSolution1.jpg 2021PlasticRecyclingSolution2.jpg

Although not our approach, here's a video of a radical and crude experiment which involves melting mixed plastics together. One of the two resulting objects was very brittle.

Identifying new plastic objects to fabricate

When making objects out of plastic waste a crucial question is this: what kind of new plastic objects do we really need? What objects are best positioned to gain the most from being made out of plastic? How do we avoid recycling the problem along with the plastic?

Disorient's goal is not only to become self-reliant when it comes to plastic recycling by recycling on-site (immediacy) but also to start using the resulting plastic bricks (and possibly other objects depending on the molds used during compression) as a component of our art installations. Creating 3D printing filaments is a possible solution but requires specific types of plastics which means that we would need to add pre-processing steps to our plastic recycling. This is something that we are trying to avoid at the beginning.

It's somewhat comforting to know that when our recycled plastic objects become obsolete, we can throw them back into the shredder for another cycle.

None of this is new. What's new is to actually make it happen locally.

Good examples of objects made with recycled plastic

ByBlock "Our unique, environmentally friendly process uses steam and compression to convert all types of plastic waste into an advanced, zero-waste building material called ByBlock" - ByFusion
Ombak Lounger. A chair by Merkaba Designs for Sungai Design
PLAEX bricks. Interlocable building system based on Lego-inspired building blocks fabricated in Canada with a mix of thermoplastic and waste construction aggregates. This new material called PLAEX-crete looks and feels like concrete.


D22 camper and co-builder of the first Man at the first Burning Man event at San Franciscos's Baker Beach in 1986, Jerry James inspires a new wave of non-burnable art.


DPR banner will be displayed here when ready.