It is no newsflash that plastic has imposed a big issue on the environment, with almost 900 million kilogrammes of plastic discarded every year in Singapore alone. And humans aren’t the only species affected. With the infiltration of plastics in the ocean, hundreds of marine species are prone to ingestion, suffocation and entanglement which could eventually lead to death. Plastics can also disintegrate into small particles – microplastics – and find their way into our food chain, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.
But what does it truly mean to recycle? For most of us, dropping our trash off at the big blue bin might be it, but the truth is, it doesn’t end there. There's a lot that goes behind the scenes of recycling that is invisible to us. That’s where Plastify Singapore comes in, Singapore's foremost community-based plastic maker space that aims to increase awareness on plastic recycling and its process. Founded two years ago, this initiative leads beach clean-ups, maker workshops, educational talks and hands-on opportunities at their workshop space. They start by educating individuals about the nature of plastics and subsequently showcasing the techniques utilised to decompose plastic waste, which is then transformed into practical everyday items. Till date, they have gathered more than 500 volunteers and have made over 1,000 products – such as coasters, earrings, carabiners – out of recycled plastics.
Paul Lee, director of Plastify Singapore, explains, “Many people don’t know that there are actually seven different types of plastics – Type 1 (PET), Type 2 (HDPE), and so on and so forth. Even the regional environmental teams in corporations may not know this, so there’s really a lot to educate on.
“We make most of our products from Type 2 where we have your bottle caps, shampoo and conditioner bottles. We have also worked with Pedro shoes to recycle shoe bags and are currently pitching to Adidas. And also fun fact, Styrofoam – which falls under Type 6 – is the most environmentally friendly plastic because it uses the least energy and resources to make.”
Our vision is to be a hub for plastic recycling and education. So, if they have questions about anything with regards to plastics, or are looking to create products by recycling, they can come to us.
Most of the plastics at Plastify are donated by cafés, retailers and various individuals. “The support from the community is fantastic. We get a lot of plastics. People trust us as we are very transparent. Our vision is to be a hub for plastic recycling and education. So, if they have questions about anything with regards to plastics, or are looking to create products by recycling, they can come to us,” says Paul.
The plastics collected are being sorted, cleaned, and then shredded. The plastic shreds are then deposited into their injectors which are made from scratch based on a modified open sourced blueprint (what!) to melt and then squeezed out into a mould of one’s choice to create products.
Plastify also provides educational workshops and presentations to schools, aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of and appreciation for sustainability. During these sessions, students can also participate in the making process using Plastify's portable injectors brought along for the workshops.
“Kids know about recycling, just that their knowledge is not very in-depth. There’s still a lot to teach. They think that recycling is just putting waste into a bin, but it is actually both the collection and the transformation of waste into a product. You can’t claim you’ve been recycling until you’ve transformed something. That’s what we want people – both old and young – to realise,” shares the 30-year-old.
This is in line with the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s Singapore Green Plan 2030 (SGP30) where schools are playing an active role in integrating environmental sustainability into the students’ curriculum to prepare them for the green economy. Plastify believes in educating – especially from a young age – to understand the full picture of what goes behind the sustainable label.
“There is a lot of greenwashing going on. A lot of sustainability talk. For example, a lot of corporations give out free tote bags that are supposedly biodegradable. However once you imprint it, it’s not anymore. What’s the point then? And when it comes to something being biodegradable, you need the right facilities and conditions for it. You don’t expect them to biodegrade naturally in grasslands here as it is something that Singapore does not have,” Paul says.
Another thing that he highlights is the concept of circularity, which is when products or services are repurposed in a way that enables it to re-enter a new cycle of life or supply chain.
“I want people to be more educated on plastic types. Before you throw something away, think of the process after. Consume more consciously. Think twice when buying something. Be a minimalist, or rather also a maximalist. What I mean by that is minimal in a way to consume things consciously, and maximal in a way whereby you make full use of an item you purchased.”
In his day-to-day life, he also practises bringing along his own utensils, bags, bottles, and whatnot.
And if I can, I would like to debunk the myth that plastic is bad. Plastic has uses. Actually, it uses the least resources as compared to paper, for example. So, choose the plastic bag option if you were to only use it once.
As Singapore’s largest community plastic maker space, friends and like-minded people come together with a single goal – to close the plastic loop. Ultimately, the guys over at Plastify believe that recycling can be both fun and accessible. And that not all plastics are bad.
“I want people to know there’s an outlet for waste. After all, waste is just a misplaced resource. And if I can, I would like to debunk the myth that plastic is bad. Plastic has uses. Actually, it uses the least resources as compared to paper, for example. So, choose the plastic bag option if you were to only use it once,” Paul says.
“It helps to find something you enjoy while being sustainable. For me, creating the coasters gives me the freedom to be creative. So for anyone who wants to practise sustainability, I suggest first identifying what you like to do as a person that can be inline with it,” Davniel, a regular volunteer at Plastify, adds.
Plastify has several new plans in the works which are expected to bring about more innovative products and programmes in the near future. If you would like to be part of the movement, reach out here for workshops, volunteering opportunities, and more.
We paid a visit to Plastify recently. Take a look here: