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Green Matter: Plastics recycling while you wait

The message of the Perpetual Plastic Project is simple and direct: recycling bioplastics is something that everyone can - and should - do. Launched at A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise, or simply Lowlands, a music festival held annually in the Netherlands in August, the Perpetual Plastic Project has since showed up at numerous events around the country where it has been hailed with enthusiasm.

So how does it work? The Perpetual Plastic Project is actually a recycling system that allowed festival-goers to recycle their own bioplastic drinking cups into new products. The project not only demonstrates how easy do-it-yourself recycling at the local level can be, it also provides insight into actual recycling processes, thus creating more awareness among these consumers. The system has been designed to be as accessible and transparent as possible: festival visitors operate the machinery by hand and can watch how the cups are transformed into raw materials and then again into a new product.

The project is an initiative of a number of former students at Delft Technical University. The set-up  - called "the Machine" - consists of a simple washing station and a drying step for used cups made of polylactic acid, after which the cups are shredded, melted and extruded as a thin, string-formed bioplastic. Using digital input from three-dimensional data, this is used to create solid, three-dimensional parts, which are built up by a 3D printer through an additive, layer-by-layer process. At festivals, the printer can be programmed to print visible souvenirs such as personalized rings, for anyone returning a cup to be recycled.

"They created a real buzz," said one of the visitors to the Dutch Design Week last month. "Everyone wanted one."

The project is sponsored by Purac. a leading company in lactic acid based bioplastics, which provided the drinking cups that are manufactured by a company called GroenBeker ("green cup").

The project is designed to educate people on the recyclability of bioplastic, in order to close the loop and promote a circular, biobased economy for future generations.

François de Bie, Marketing Director at Purac Bioplastics, is pleased with the success of the project. "This initiative demonstrates in a tangible, understandable way just how easily PLA can be recycled. Although PLA is still a relatively new material to the plastics industry, it promises to become widely implemented throughout a broad range of applications. It is therefore vital that we already start to think about how best to recycle these valuable materials. Thanks to the Perpetual Plastics Project, we can show people at events and festivals what can ultimately be achieved on a much larger scale'. 

Purac has created a short video to highlight the project and the recyclability of PLA. 

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