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What products can be made with little/no costs, tools and skill to aid people in difficult financial situations?

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Jun 24, 2021
We want to start an initiative in our community to educate some of the locals in difficult financial positions on ways that they can create items from recycled plastic that could be sold to support their income.
This is not a new idea, there have been plenty of iterations of the same concept in the past, but the purpose of this session is to come up with a list of products that can be manufactured that meet three requirements.

  1. The material needs to be free to access. Recycled material would be best, as it would serve dual purposes, cleaning the environment while also benefitting the local community.
  2. The products need to be easy to make. If the manufacturing process is too complicated or requires too much skill or equipment, not everyone will be able to benefit from it.
  3. The finished products need to have value. Often, these type of initiatives produce a lot of products that ultimately cannot be sold.

I think plastic bags have become redundant in many western countries, here in Africa, they are still abundant though, therefore, plastic bags would be the ideal material to use, but I am open to any suggestions.

We plan to host workshops where we can ideally teach these manufacturing skills in one or two sessions, so while ideas like melting plastic and making golf tees is great, the process might be too difficult for one person without any resources. We're looking for sustainable skills that we can pass on quickly to as many people as possible, allowing them to then take it further on their own.

As the third specification points out, we'd like to be manufacturing goods that are useful, rather than just crafts. Often, these initiatives focus on the tourism market, selling curriosities and memorabilia at inflated prices to visitors from other countries who don't mind paying high prices because of the exchange rate. Apart from the fact that Covid has shut down the tourism industry in South Africa, I also believe that it would be more sustainable to focus on useful products.

A quick search on Google for "recycled plastic craft ideas" or any similar term will quickly produce a lot of options, but we want to focus on products that would be scalable. You're not going to be able to sell 1000 fish made out of plastic bottles, so making fish out of plastic bottles is going to limit the potential, we want to find ideas that could potentially make them some money.
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Creative contributions

Building blocks from recycled plastic

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Juran Jun 24, 2021
Since the product is meant to be useful, maybe it would be interesting to produce something you can use for building houses. While traditional bricks use mortar as "glue", plastic bricks could be connected together by in-built Lego-inspired connective structures (Figure 1.). The structures would be included in the mould and would allow connecting in various ways.

To empower this, local organisations and government could allow building houses up to 50 m2 from these plastic "bricks" with reduced costs of needed licences.
Figure 1. Example of a building block from recycled material. Taken from .

[1]file:///C:/Users/Korisnik/Desktop/1-Precious-Plastic-Brick-clean-1-2048x1365.jpg.webp

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Spook Louw
Spook Louwa month ago
That's a great idea, I also looked into plastic bricks, but I think the lego type connections could work better. My only concern is that not anyone would be able to do this, as they'd need moulds first. Since you'd only need one or two moulds though, it could be possible to try and get sponsorships to provide a community with some moulds, to begin with, but ideally, I'm looking for things that require little or no equipment as it would disqualify people who can't get access to the necessary tools.
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Jurana month ago
Spook Louw I agree that it requires a mold, first. Maybe it could be easily done by digging and shaping a mold in the ground or by repurposing objects we usually have in our backyard. There could be even a machine where you put plastic bottles or plastic waste and it gives you a plastic brick in return. The machine could make it on-site or have premade bricks ready for disposal.
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Povilas S
Povilas Sa month ago
I think this is a great idea! Proper housing is a major need amongst the poor. Of course, a house made entirely from plastic is probably not the best place to live in, but this could be used at least as partial material and greatly reduce the cost of proper housing. Maybe a public initiative could be started where such bricks and similar building materials made from recycled waste are given to people with lack of income in exchange for collected plastic waste.

Pet beds

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Jun 25, 2021
This idea might not completely adhere to the first criteria of this session, as tires (though still available) are harder to come by than plastic, and I'm not quite sure what the bedding would be made of yet and the producers would potentially need to get paint unless they just leave the colour as is.

It's based on this project, but the lady basically just put a store-bought bed in a tire, so we'd have to adjust it.

Like I said, we do have access to tires, while we might not be able to produce as many products as some of the other ideas, I believe this could be sold for substantially more, which would make up for the lower quantities.

The idea is simple enough, simply clean out an old tire and fill it with some bedding material. Ideally, the material would be removable to make it easier to clean. Perhaps it'd be possible to make some form of cushion using discarded material, I'm not sure what the cushion would be stuffed with though, we could potentially just use more material, but I think it'd take quite a lot to fill a decent sized cushion and I'm not sure if that would be the most economical approach. Perhaps it'd even be possible to donate old mattresses or cushions to the producers which they can use.

I like this idea because you could potentially make a proper pet bed, instead of something that looks like recycling.

[1]https://www.practicallyfunctional.com/diy-dog-bed-from-a-recycled-tire/

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Povilas S
Povilas Sa month ago
To make it look less like a recycled product (if that's the aim), the surface of the tire could all be covered by sticking recycled paper, cardboard, or textile to it. In order not to use glue it could even be enveloped with a crocheted recycled plastic yarn. Of course, the latter is not easy, but then it would look really nice and cozy. It wouldn't look like a tire and also possibly be more attractive to animals to lie inside. Or the tire tread could be left showing since it's kind of a nice pattern, maybe only be painted in some colour and only the top facing part be covered since it has numbers, company indexes, all that. The latter option reveals that the bed is made from a recycled tire and is also attractive in that sense.

It would be nice to make a bottom "lid" from something like recycled plywood. In order not to use glue or screws, the round plate could be tied to the tire. This would take making it a bit bigger than the tire for the sides to stick out, drilling or otherwise making some holes in it, then pulling strong threads through, wrapping around the sides of the tire, pulling through another concentric hole in the bottom sheet and tying knots there. The threads would simply add to enveloping the sides and top of the tire in textile (that's another way of covering it). This would make the space inside the tire smaller but would look nice. It would take some additional tools to do this, but perhaps such a finished product could be sold for a higher price.

Plastic bottle broomsticks

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Jun 24, 2021
Another idea, inspired by this lady, is to convert plastic bottles into broomsticks.

While broomsticks definitely fulfil the third criteria of this session, she makes use of some tools that aren't accessible to everyone, and only the brush part of the broomstick is actually made out of recycled plastic, so people would still need to buy the wood needed for the rest of the product.

Still, it could be profitable, as wood is not that expensive, and after facilitating a couple of people with the material they need through the help of donors, future material could be covered by the cost of one broom. Alternatively, we could find a way to make the entire broomstick out of recyclable material.

Recycled plastic crochet grocery bags

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Jun 24, 2021
The first thing we are going to be doing is teach people how to turn plastic bags into yarn which can then be crocheted into a whole list of different things.

What we're planning on though, keeping the third specification in mind, is to show them how to make crochet grocery bags. It will not take a lot of skill, and apart from the crochet needles (which we plan on getting sponsors for and distributing at the workshops), it won't need any material other than plastic bags which are plentiful and free.

Grocery bags will be the most practical product to make, as people are trying to move away from plastic bags and this product would then allow them to have twice the impact on plastic pollution as they are supporting the recycling of old plastic and will not have a need for new plastic bags if they have a grocery bag. There is a whole list of other products that they will also be able to make once they know how to turn plastic bags into yarn however.



[1]https://www.diys.com/plastic-bag-crochet-projects/

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Povilas S
Povilas Sa month ago
Other items that could be crocheted from plastic yarn and are also useful, attractive, and could be sold are crocheted rag rugs. They are usually made from textile rags, but could also be made from plastic yarn. Example: https://www.etsy.com/listing/30838950/recycled-plastic-bag-crocheted-rag-rug-a. Those rugs are nice and useful especially if they are made from colorful materials (it's easy to get colorful plastic). I have one at home myself and I like it. It's just that it might be more complicated to make those from plastic textile compared to a normal one, but I don't know about this, just a guess.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louwa month ago
Povilas S Rugs would be great! Thinking about if plastic rugs would be comfortable also made me wonder if it would be possible to make bedding for animals using recycled plastic. I'll look into it.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savica month ago
An alternative to this is the conversion of plastic bottles into nets that could be used for agriculture, fishing, maybe even as a substitute to chicken wire https://youtu.be/kYiRgMLo0Pk

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