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Plastic Recycling Project Is as Unusual as it Is Impressive

Giant Gundam sculpture headlines a toy recycling exhibit using scrap plastic polystyrene from model kits collected throughout Japan.

November 29, 2021

It was with a wave of nostalgia that I came across some news this weekend about an unusual plastic recycling project in Japan.

Like my friends in the 1960s, part of my youth was spent gluing together plastic toy models from companies such as Revell, Monogram, and Aurora and others. My favorite was the Seaview submarine from the “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” TV series. A key part of the process was separating the parts of the model from the rest of the plastic, which I’ve learned is called sprue cards or runners, the thin, interconnected sticks of plastic that keep the parts together.

An unusual project from Bandai Spirits recycles the runners in a big way: as a giant Gundam head sculpture. According to an article posted at Screen Rant, “the Gunpla Recycling Project is a toy recycling event hosted by toymaker Bandai Namco on November 20 and 21. For six months prior to the event, Gundam's parent company asked fans to drop off their empty sprue cards in designated boxes that were placed throughout Japan. These sprue cards were then used to create a 1:1 scale Gundam head, with remaining ones by other artists at the event.” A quick Google search revealed that most assemble-from-parts model kits like this are made of injection-molded-polystyrene (PS).

Posted on November 25th, the Bandai Namco YouTube video embedded here has quickly drawn more than 200 likes including mine.

This is just a start. Another outlet reported that every Namco store in Japan will have a recycling box so that the plastic can be sent to a central location and reused through advanced (chemical) recycling. It is anticipated “that 10 tons of plastic will be recycled in a year.”

It also messages the continued efforts of toy companies that have rallied around sustainability such as Lego’s recycled bricks.

I haven’t been this excited by model-making since episode one of the James May’s Toy Stories series when his team created and assembled a 1:1 scale fighter plane from molded plastic complete with model May dummy in the cockpit of the life-sized Airfix Spitfire.

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