This article is part of Precious Plastic, a One Army project tackling the plastic waste problem. You can learn morehere
The educational aspect of Precious Plastic has always been central to the project. Of course, Precious Plastic educating and instructing a movement of recyclers but also, more importantly, a movement of recyclers educating society at large. The kind of exponential growth we like.
From the very beginning, Precious Plastic workspaces around the world got busy using the recycling machines to make workshops to educate the broader society about plastic, the problems it creates to the environment and how to creatively recycle plastic and tackle the problem collectively.
It is difficult to say how many people participated in a Precious Plastic workshop since we got into melting plastic. But, the number is definitely in the hundreds of thousands of people. From kids to grandpas and everyone in between. People that (hopefully) now look at plastic differently. As a valuable material not to be wasted. A precious resource to be cared for.
Workshops might be the single most important impact we have collectively achieved as a community.
The ins & outs of educational workshops
Workshops educating people on plastic recycling can come in many forms depending on the context, machines available and client. Usually, you have a Precious Plastic workspace with its team members and machines explaining all about plastic and how to recycle it to a crowd, school, office or event. Lately much of it is happening online, like many other aspects of our lives.
What are the topics in a Precious Plastic workshop?
Depending on the type of workshop, audience, context and client, a workshop can cover different areas of recycling. Some common areas of interest can be:
- The plastic problem (movie suggestion - Story of Plastic)
- Waste hierarchy (prevention and reuse should always come first)
- Plastic types
- Knowledge about local public recycling
- Safety of plastic
- Impact of plastic on the environment and human health
- What is Precious Plastic
- Theoretical understanding of the machines
- Product design
- Social impact
- Recycle plastic with machines
- And many, many more
These are just but a few topics covered in a typical Precious Plastic workshop. Sometimes you can only cover the theory, while in other workshops only the hands-on recycling can be done. Few other times the conditions are right and it is possible to cover the theory and do some fun melting. Each workshop is different.
Where can I run a Precious Plastic educational workshop?
Almost everywhere. We have seen educational workshops ran in the most disparate places from offices, beaches, boats, museums, festivals, favelas, universities, schools, public areas or more. Educational workshops can be held onsite where the client or situation demands them or back at the workspaces. As a rule of thumb, make sure it is a spacious and well-ventilated area to run a smooth and frictionless workshop.
What kind of machines do you need to run a workshop?
Once again, it highly depends on what kind of workshop you’re looking to run. A simple and easy setup is a Basic Shredder and an Injection machine. Easy to build, you can make cool gadgets for your audience, easy to transport and straightforward to understand for the audience.
The Extrusion machine is also used sometimes as it makes it incredibly direct and straightforward to understand what recycling means. Plus the Zelenew technique makes it very hands-on and fun.
No machine? No problems, more and more we’re seeing analogue and hands-on educational workshops with techniques like ironing sheets or even simple plastic identification to make the workshops more accessible and safe to run.
The health & safety of running a recycling workshop
Melting a petroleum-based polymer always needs adequate precautions. We have a whole chapter in our Academy to help you stay safe.
As long as you’re melting plastic in your workspace, you can kind of do whatever you want, even though you should always follow our guidelines to stay healthy and safe. However, the moment you go out in the world running workshops and machines, you have to take extra precautions to make sure no one gets hurt. Even more so if you're running a workshop with kids.
Often people hack the original designs to make sure they meet more strict health & safety standards. A big red switch button, extra insulation, a cover for moving parts, air filters and so on, are some of the additional safety measures people have been implementing to create and run safe workshops.
Make sure to go the extra mile when planning the safety of your machines, it's about your health and the people you'll be teaching.
Precious Plastic educational workshops can be very profitable
Running educational workshops tends to be one of the most profitable businesses for Precious Plastic workspaces. Often clients organising such workshops have bigger budgets and don’t mind spoiling their people.
More and more Precious Plastic workspaces are focusing on education as there is lots of room to grow and each gig can easily pay for months worth of work.
Educational recycling workshops going digital
Of course, the world in 2021 is kind of a difficult place for any activity or business involving people and the outdoors. This pandemic forced many workspaces to creatively rethink how they do things and redesign their educational workshops to adjust to the situation.
A fantastic example of this creative restructuring is Plastic Shed, from Manchester, where after coming to terms with lockdown, they swiftly shifted their entire curriculum of workshops online to continue their work inspiring new generations to recycle plastic.
Lucy from Offcut studio is another example of running online workshops with teaching attendees from around the world how she recycles acrylic.
10 Workspaces doing Educational Workshops:
Probably most of the people working on Precious Plastic, at some point in their recycling journey, have hosted some sort of workshop. However, more and more projects are focusing on educational workshops as their primary activity. Below is a somewhat (but most probably not) complete list of the most active Precious Plastic workspaces that focus on spreading recycling knowledge to society through workshops.
Precious Plastic Parafitt 🇭🇺
This super-inclusive Precious Plastic workspace is based in Budapest, Hungary. They do amazing work with people with disabilities using Precious Plastic. They go to festivals and have open days to spread recycling knowledge while helping people in need.
Precious Plastic Malaysia 🇲🇾
A very active and professional workspace in Malaysia running many workshops at many events, schools and festivals. They have a very broad curriculum and even built the green truck where they have custom fit all of the machines on a truck to carry them around and do workshops. Inspiring!
Remember a few years back when we went to Chile to set up a recycling workspace? Rekaba was born and ever since they’ve been running very successful workshops with locals run by an awesome all-women awesome team.
Leao and the team from Vivalab focus on education, design & innovation and have been working on Precious Plastic in Portugal since 2016. They have been involving civic, scientific, business and local authorities in developing solutions to reduce plastic waste. They teach local communities the potential of recycling plastic waste through their extensive workshops & programs.
Precious Plastic Shanghai 🇨🇳
Adele and the team at Precious Plastic Shanghai have been making workshops for many years now. They made an engaging bicycle shredder for demonstration purposes and host a lot of educational workshops with companies, startups and universities.
Kunststoffschmeide has been running educational workshops across Germany and Europe since 2017 with great success and lots of fun. Make sure to check out their very useful how-to on running a workshop at an event.
Precious Plastic Bangkok 🇹🇭🇹
Dominic from Precious Plastic Bangkok has been focusing on educational workshops in Thai schools, International schools and universities. They now work with 15 international schools across Bangkok who now either do regular workshops or have their own set of machines and workspace.
Plástico Precioso Uramba 🇨🇴
On the western coast of Colombia on the Pacific Ocean, there is a little Precious Plastic workshop making educational workshops with local kids and tourists on how to recycle all of that plastic washing ashore on the epic beaches.
No Plastic Sunday 🇰🇷
A new project from the guys at Praglab, No Plastic Sunday, runs very well thought out workshops and design programs with engaging teaching methods in Seoul, South Korea.
Plastic Shed 🇬🇧
Straight from Manchester in the UK, Plastic Shed's entire business model and project is built around education. They focus on students and kids but also expand their reach to train teams, community groups and the elderly. Recently, they’ve developed a complete online package to continue recycling education during the lockdown.
Plàstic Preciós La Safor 🇪🇸
In Valencia, Plàstic Preciós La Safor educates at schools with very successful workshops that engage local students in learning about the potentials of working with plastic.
Did we miss out your favourite workspace making educational workshops? Make sure to reach out and let us know!
How do I start running educational recycling workshops?
There are many ways to start your Precious Plastic project by running educational workshops. It depends on the scale of the project you have in mind. Technically, you could get an iron, some plastic, call a bunch of people and run a workshop. Or even just get yourself well informed about the local public recycling systems and educate your community to support the local recycling system already in place.
If you want something a bit more pro, make sure to dig through the Precious Plastic Academy to learn everything about plastic and how to get your machines. The Injection starterkit could be a particularly valuable resource. And finally, check out the How-to from Kunstoffschmeide as it is a super useful resource from one of the most knowledgeable Precious Plastic workspaces out there.
If you have the chance, make sure to attend a Precious Plastic workshop to get a feeling of what it takes to run a successful recycling workshop using Precious Plastic.
And remember, plastic waste is an education problem
I am always baffled at the general ignorance (lack of knowledge) surrounding plastic as a material, as a problem and its consequences. But this lack of knowledge can easily be addressed by a decentralised and creative army of recyclers. Explaining in simple terms and with a positive attitude what plastic is and how it can be used resourcefully can go a long way to change how our society looks at and treats plastic.
Off you go educating the next billion!