The three engineering students Kazi Owais Ahmed (Mechanical Engineering), Muhammad Rafay Ashfaq (Electrical Engineering) and Hamza Haider (Electrical Engineering) worked on their new design for a plastic injection machine.
The goal of the group project was to further develop the mechanical and electrical engineering aspects of the Precious Plastic injection machine V02 which enables users to manually inject melted plastic into a mold to create plastic objects. For this capstone project, the group implemented features like a touch screen with integrated user interface to access and control the movement of an integrated electric screw jack. This system enables the user to operate a piston handsfree. A new heating system was successfully designed and implemented. The blueprints and schematics will be published on this website – stay tuned!
I am writing these lines to share with our wider community the news that I am leaving NYU Abu Dhabi at the end of the academic year 2020 to move with my family back to Germany. This post is to say good-bye to an amazing group of people and to give an overview about the next steps to ensure the Plastic Lab’s post-corona existence.
Whenever I visited the lab during the past months I got quite depressed. No colourful bottle caps stored in containers in front of the lab, no students walking in and out to work on their projects. An ever growing layer of dust on our stations and the equipment at NYUAD’s waste management site. With everyone moving online, I spent my time alone without the squeezing noise and the mumbling sounds of our self-made machines. No laughters from all of you hanging out and working in the lab. I used this time for disinfection, sorting and cleaning of all parts to enable a quick restart when hibernation ends. In preparation to the moment of rebirth, I have worked to ensure a best possible hand-over so that the lab will continue its endeavours to research the multiple and fascinating facets of plastic in the future.
I am very happy to announce that Prof. Marcela Godoy (NYU Shanghai) has agreed to take over my position to lead NYUAD’s Plastic Recycling Research Lab in the future. Marcela is an active member of the Precious Plastic Shanghai Community and has started a similar lab at NYU Shanghai where she works with teams of students on amazing experimental recycling projects. With her experience in teaching courses around the topics of sustainability and plastic recycling, the workshops she gave in our lab in the past and the overview she gained about our lab’s infrastructure during her co-teaching of the Plastic Fantastic !? J-Term course and during the Precious Plastic WANA Conference 2018, she is a perfect fit for the position of the Plastic Lab’s Director and the research team’s Principal Investigator. I am very happy that she is committing to this adventure and wish her all the best for her plan to continue the growth of NYUAD’s Plastic Recycling Research Lab and her work with the wider community in the UAE and the WANA region! As the lock-down policies are still in place it will take some time until Marcela can join full-time NYUAD – latest update is that she is not able to be hired before Fall 2021 because of a general hiring freeze, but she already received the invitation to teach a new edition of the Plastic Fantastic !? course in Summer 2021.
I am incredibly thankful to my colleague Prof. Goffredo Puccetti (NYU Abu Dhabi) to step forward and to take the responsibility of leading the Plastic Lab as the Plastic Lab’s Interim Director until the Engineering Department is able to hire Marcela full-time. Goffredo and I have collaborated on multiple design projects at NYUAD. He shares a common vision on design and is inexhaustibly fighting for a better accessible and more inclusive campus. I leave the lab in his very capable hands!
I am very grateful about the opportunity to have started and established the Plastic Lab into NYUAD’s ecosystem. With Goffredo already in place and Marcela ready to start whenever she is allowed to, and with the support of the labs’ many volunteers, interns, and Student Research Assistants, as well as our NYUAD student representative and SRA Emma Olivia Anderson, I could not be more positive about the lab’s future!
Thanks again, Marcela, Goffredo and Emma, and to all of you!!!
There are so many more people I would like to thank and I would like to say good-bye to and to tell them that I will always connect them in my memories with NYUAD’s Plastic Lab (but I am also so afraid that I forget to mention someone): All students and Student Research Assistants (Aayush, Emma, Mari, Cameron, Shaheer, Hadi, Rumail, Mohammed, Barkin, Febin, Bianka, Mariam, Yusuf, Mayra, Ying, and specially the ones that started to build the machines in 2016: Ona (!), Hani, Raghav), Capstone students (Hamza, Kazi, Rafay), Summer Research Assistants (from AUS: Hashem, Ahmed), all volunteers and interns (from Cranleigh: Rachel and Bella), all visitors, guests, research partners and collaborators that I was allowed to learn from. Everyone from the global Precious Plastic community and the teams in The Netherlands, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia, India, China, The Philippines, Bosnia Herzegovina, Pakistan, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, United States and the UAE, of course!!! All workers from the waste management site that supported us whenever we needed help, all colleagues and NYUAD members who joined conversations and discussion around our topic. Everyone who has always supported us! Carol Brandt and Bryan Waterman for their never ending ideas and support for the Plastic Fantastic !? course. A special thanks goes to our amazing partners from SERCO that enthusiastically supported this project from the very first minute. Louise Larkins, please express to all your colleagues my deepest gratitude and appreciation! Without Julie Thurston (Facilities Strategic Assessment & Planning) and Terence Monahan (Health & Safety), the support of the Engineering Department’s staff, specially Pauline Conaghan and Jacqui Menezes, it would not have been possible to establish a successful running research lab. Nick and Erin Collins who helped me setting up the lab and to get equipped with shelves, and electricity. Last but not least the collaboration with the American University of Sharjah’s Office of Sustainability, Rose Armour’s team, and the AUS Precious Plastic team around Prof. Zlatan Filipovic and Prof. Daniel Chavez that I have worked with on multiple projects, talks, workshops and the realisation of the prototype of the Mobile Plastic Lab.
Please keep on doing what you do, and fight for a better world!
We are happy to announce that the Plastic Lab was able to secure the funding for the position of a Visiting Student Research Assistant for summer 2020!
The goal of this summer research project is to deeply dive into the pathways of plastic and plastic waste throughout the UAE and to map those into an understandable flow-chart diagram. The result will help to analyze the streams of waste, from for example personal or industrial cause to recycling plants or landfills, and to understand the related processes. A second responsibility of the summer researcher is the development of a workflow for the use of the newly installed plastic extruding machine, and to integrate the machine into the weekly procedures of the lab’s Student Research Assistants. The goal is to create a flow-chart diagram for the process of creating plastic beams and parts that can be used to make furniture.
Using the heat compression machine, we are able to make rather elementary shapes, like hexagons. This is probably the most common Precious Plastics first project because of its relative simplicity. However, we have been testing it out with different colors, brands, and plastic types. Outlined below we have our process, findings, and future avenues of inquiry.
(Our heat compression machine)
Place paper sheet below (for preventive measures)
Place solid metal plate (filled fully)
Stack another solid metal hexagon mold plate
Add 115 ml of whichever color, number 2 plastic (HDPE) into the mold
Place paper sheet on top
At 275 ºC for 15 minutes, heat the mold
At the end, take the molds out, place another solid metal plate on top (this prevents the piece from puffing out, as it usually does), and let cool for 10 minutes
Flip the molds (they will most likely not be full at the edges, like the photo below), so fill the edges with about 30 ml of the same color of HDPE
Place back into the heating machine for another 7.5 minutes (remember to place a paper sheet on top of it!)
Take it out and place the metal sheet on top of it to prevent puffing, waiting about another 10 minutes
Paper will most likely stick to it, but you can take it off with water
(Before adding the 30 ml of extra plastic)
(The final result. Notice that the one on the left has a more even color distribution as compared to the other side, pictured on the left)
Surprisingly, different colors react differently. This may be because our blue shredded plastic material was mainly comprised of blue Al Ain bottle caps while the red was a conglomerate of different brands. This, we will have to explore in future tests, when considering brands and purity of the plastic used, since some brands may have different manufacturing processes.
Additionally, the top side (before being flipped) tends to not melt evenly; instead, it maintains its speckled design, perhaps making it more interesting than its other side where it more evenly distributes after the second heating. We need to experiment more with these, especially when considering color fusion in future designs.
Finally the use of paper on top of the plastic while it heats seems to add a wavy texture to the melted plastic, most likely due to its expansion during heating and retraction during cooling. Manipulation of the quality of these plastics could lead to more interesting textures in the design of such simplistic shapes.
Future avenues of inquiry:
While there are many different aspects we still have yet to explore, we need to test the characteristics of the plastic within different colors, even becoming more specific to brands, to see if that makes a difference. Beyond this, we would like to explore how color mixing would change the process. Additionally, we need to see how heating the bottom plate (because the bottom plate is not also heated) would affect the overall distibution of color, rather than maintaining a speckled design.
What would a world without plastic look like? How does the world look because of it? The newly offered course Plastic Fantastic !? looks critically at plastic’s ubiquity in global consumer cultures. (Find the course syllabus here.) Students will consider plastic’s predecessors and contemporary alternatives and engage with a range of topics, from the environmental politics of plastic debris in oceans, to the ethics and values of plastic surgery, to the proliferation of cheap plastic toys and fashion trends. Based on these discussions, and inspired by the original meaning of the Greek term plastikos (to grow, to form), the class will develop and create a product using recycled plastic waste in NYUAD’s Plastic Recycling Research Lab. In addition to the completed project, to be displayed in an exhibition at the January Term’s end, students will leave with a personal philosophy of Art, Design, and Technology as well as a sense of how mutually reinforcing and beneficiary a mix of these fields can be for future problem solving. Mandatory field-trips include visits to relevant industries (water, oil, waste, etc.), natural reserves, and landfill sites in the UAE and the Philippines (Manila).
Nestled between mountains, Sarajevo is rich in nature. As in many cities around the globe, plastic is a ubiquitous part of consumer life in Sarajevo. Single-use plastic bottles assemble at kiosks, ready for those passing by to conveniently grab a drink in during the heat waves of the summer. Items placed in plastic bags, ready to conveniently transported to their next destination.
In the summer of 2018, Precious Plastic Sarajevo began to materialize. During that summer, a shredder powered by bicycle, a compression machine, and injection machine were created. The materials for the DIY machines were sourced from hardwood stores and scrapyards, as the team worked with a local mechanic to weld and create the machines.
In October 2018, with the support of Crvena Association for Art and Culture, Precious Plastic Sarajevo gave a workshop as part of Prostor Povezivanja (Connectivity Space) at the campus for the University of Sarajevo Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science. The Faculty took on Precious Plastic with a team of six students and faculty. At the beginning of this year, the team began by renovating a space in the Faculty for plastic collection and have garnered enthusiasm from various members in the faculty. In the following months, the machines were experimented with and tweaked. One change included adding a motor to the shredder, in place of the bike. The group has recently received a small grant in order to continue working on and improving their DIY machines.
The group began experimenting with the injection machine and created various items such as bowls, but with the donation of two molds from Saračević d.o.o. the team was able to begin producing cleaner products more efficiently. On one particularly productive day at the workshop, the team produced 22 pots and 42 hexagonal tiles.
Following an Earth Day presentation in April, the team was able to recruit 15 new members with a variety of interests and skills in order to help them expand production and the impact that they are having. The team hopes to increase plastic recycling awareness in the city this year.
Other partners in the city have also begun to look at recycled plastic as a material. At the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, students have been thinking of ways to revitalize a green space using recycled plastic to create spaces of interaction in the park, such as benches or playground equipment.
From the beginning, Precious Plastic Sarajevo has collaborated with New York University Abu Dhabi. Professor Zlatan Filipovic (American University of Sharjah) and Assistant Teacher Denisa Šečerbajtarević (Academy of Fine Arts Sarajevo) attended the WANA conference in December 2018, participating in panels and assisting in workshops. A cube, the product of an experiment, was also featured in the Plastic Fantastic exhibition that opened during the WANA conference. Through the support of Crvena Association for Art and Culture, Precious Plastic Sarajevo has hosted two NYUAD interns. Hamza Haider worked on the project in the summers of 2018 and 2019 and Katharina Klaunig worked on the project in the summer of 2019.
As knowledge sharing partners and collaborators, Precious Plastic Sarajevo and Precious Plastic NYUAD continue to work together.
With more than 7,000 thousand islands to choose from, one would expect it to be hard to find the best places to visit in the Philippines. Yet, when it comes to recommendations, El Nido tops all the lists on the internet as the ‘best’ and ‘most beautiful’, and is one of those rare occasions, the hype and fame are all well-deserved in the case for this little corner of paradise.
However, the reason for writing about this breathtaking place is not just to praise its beauty, but also to appreciate the local efforts to keep this scenery intact with sustainability in mind. The place is still in development, per se, despite its overwhelming popularity, but unlike most cases where the sudden surge of tourists overwhelmed the area and concluded in mother nature being the victim of harmful tourism, El Nido is consciously trying to develop and better their services without destroying the very thing that caused the place’s popularity, its pure and untouched natural beauty.
Its most popular tourist activities, the island hopping tours around the smaller islands surrounding El Nido begin with each visitor paying a small fee for a life-long environment tax to (literally) pay their respect for mother nature – as long as they save the paper of the tax being paid, which you are reminded of every time by all tour guides and tourist offices). “Sustainability and environment mindedness is a conscious action by all in El Nido,” says every captain at the beginning of the day tours around the islands. Every tour includes a quick training on environmental consciousness. No littering on the islands is allowed, and if anyone spots any trash, they are reminded to kindly pick them up and give them to the boat staff so that every new visitor of the islands will feel like they are the first ones to ever set foot on the place.
Plastic straws? Almost non-existent. It’s harder to find a bar or street vendor with plastic straws then it is to avoid one here. Sea vendors who approach the boat tour participants during island hopping only have bamboo straws and the few private beaches that have shopping huts for refreshments either use the same bamboo straws or cut the bucos (coconuts) in a shape so that you can enjoy it straight from the shell without spillage or littering (excluding the shells themselves… but they are part of nature so the only thing they might destroy is the aesthetics of a clean beach). Or if not bamboo straws, most restaurants use metal straws to serve their refreshments in the towns.
With their effort and hard work, the people of El Nido are a great example of how to develop sustainable tourism to appreciate and show off the best side of mother nature. There’s still room for improvement as the place will develop, but they are taking the right steps towards a better and more sustainable way of tourism.
During his 20-minute presentation, Hamza Haider talked about his summer internship experience in Sarajevo where he helped found the Precious Plastic Sarajevo LAB as well as his involvement with Precious Plastic NYUAD, here in Abu Dhabi. In his speech, he mainly focused on the procedures involved in the two initiatives that serve the same purpose yet are at stark contrast to each other in the manner of their progress and audience.
Thanks to Hamza, many more people were informed of the work we do worldwide within the Precious Plastic community, and hopefully, with more opportunities like this, we will be able to grow bigger and greater to spread the positive message of plastic consciousness.