Design of a plastic injection machine – Engineering Capstone project 2020

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!

Thank you!

Hi everyone,

Prof. Felix Hardmood Beck (Director and PI Plastic Lab 2018 – 2020)
Prof. Felix Hardmood Beck steps down as Director of the Plastic Lab in August 2020.

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.

Prof. Marcela Godoy
Prof. Marcela Godoy takes over the position of director and PI of the Plastic Lab.

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!

Emma Olivia Anderson
Emma Olivia Anderson (SRA and student representative of NYUAD’s Precious Plastic Group)

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!

I promise to visit the lab from time to time. Let’s stay in touch!

All the best,

Visiting Undergraduate Research Program

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.

The deadline for applications is March 30. Please email with any questions.

Continue reading “Visiting Undergraduate Research Program”

New course ‘Plastic Fantastic !?’ offered during J-Term

The participants of the 'Plastic Fantastic !?' course will work with the community in Tondo district (Happylands) in Manila, Philippines.

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).

El Nido – A little corner of (sustainable) paradise

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.

Press Release (New York City, April 5) – Precious Plastic: Mobilizing Plastic Recycling

| Precious Plastic NYUAD Presentation | New York City, USA | April 5 |

On April 5, one of our members of Precious Plastic NYUAD gave a presentation, titled Precious Plastic: Mobilizing Plastic Recycling during the Global Engagement Symposium at NYU’s New York Campus.

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.


Importance of Accountability in Plastic Pollution Crisis

Accountability can reverse plastic pollution crisis, says WWF report.

On March 5, 2019, WWF released a report titled “Solving Plastic Pollution Through Accountability”. The report was released before the key meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) that will take place next week in Nairobi.

The new study warns us that an additional 104 million metric tons of plastic is at the risk of infiltrating our ecosystem if business as usual continues, with overall CO2 emissions increasing by 50% by 2030 from the plastic life cycle.

The ever-increasing leakage of plastic into our nature have serious consequences for our wildlife, our ecosystem and us, humans alike. The system as a whole needs to take responsibility for the true cost of plastic production, especially for their effect on nature and the people. We are only beginning to understand what plastic consumption does to people, yet every year we continue to ingest plastics from food and drinking water.

Our methods of producing, using and disposing of plastic is fundamentally broken, and the system lacks accountability. Focus has been put mostly on consumers and waste management while the rest of the plastics value chain were ignored in the conversations.

Public outrage and concern for the plastic crisis is growing, along with the demand that governments and business show take decisive actions to reduce plastic waste. The issue can only be solved efficiently and effectively if we enforce the right level of accountability across the whole plastic supply and value chain.

Image result for plastic not being recycled

We already know solutions to the crisis – from reduction to collection, from recycling to use of alternatives. Reinforcing existing initiatives such as the elimination of single-use plastics, upgrading national waste management plans and reaching 100% collection rates can all help stop the global plastics pollution crisis from getting further out of hand before its too late.

If system-wide accountability is implemented and exercised effectively, the crisis can be resolved with the next generation’s time. This is the time for action!

Open position for Visiting Undergraduate Researcher (UAE-based)

Research Project Title:
Research Report on NYUAD’s Waste Management

Research Project Description:
The goal of this summer research project (published here on NYUAD’s website) is to create a comprehensive report about actual processes of NYUAD’s waste management, and to develop a plan for improvement, and future integration of the existing plastic recycling machines into NYUAD’s and its service providers’ waste management. We are specifically interested in creating flow-chart diagrams on existing processes, analysing and mapping out the use of the actual in-use waste management area, gathering numbers from the different providers, and to learn about the different  destinations that NYUAD’s waste goes to after it leaves campus (for example landfill sites in the UAE, recycling in Asia, etc.).  Continue reading “Open position for Visiting Undergraduate Researcher (UAE-based)”

Manila Field Trip

A group of four NYUAD students went on a self organised excursion to the Philippines, to work on several ideas for a social enterprise to support underprivileged children in the region of Manila. Felix took the opportunity to join the students to visit several sites, and to meet with Precious Plastic Philippines. Within a three day visit of course nobody can claim to know the city, but it is enough time to get a long lasting impression of the cities’ dynamic environments and its amazing population. Below you can find a few of those impressions from the travel.

Field-trip to Manila,
January 2019

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