Giving plastic bottles a new lease on life

It's no secret that here at Onya we're firmly against the idea of single-use plastic bottles existing in the first place. As much as we'd love to zap them all into oblivion, however, the reality is that plastic bottles are still being produced, leaving us with the question of what to do with them once they've served their purpose. 

Obviously recycling is the first stop – plastic bottles which end up in landfill aren't going to be good for anything over the next 450 years, which is the time US National Parks Service estimates it takes a bottle to decompose. 

By popping the appropriate plastics into recycling, this allows them a much better chance at being repurposed, as well as being much better for the environment. Avoiding buying plastic bottles altogether is clearly the most eco-friendly option, especially when you have our stainless steel, BPA free drink bottles as the alternative. 

Plastics bottles reborn 

To do our bit towards reducing the number of pointless plastics in the world, here at Onya we use plastic bottles to create rPET, a recycled material which provides the fabric for our reusable shopping bags. If you want to find out more about how the magic happens, you can read all about it in last month's product spotlight.

Another plastic bottle eating project has recently come up on our radar, to do with 3D printing. The phase has evolved from exclusive research equipment to being present throughout educational institutions to even being available online for consumer use. 

Now, two students from the University of British Columbia (UBC) have come up with a way to give new life to old plastic bottles by running them through a machine to create the filament used in 3D printers. 

Engineering students Dennon Oosterman, Alex Kay and David Joyce came up with the ProtoCycler machine as part of a fourth-year university project. 

"We were concerned about the amount of plastic waste generated in our engineering projects, so we looked for a way to recycle that plastic back into usable filament," says Oosterman. 

The ProtoCycler combines the two functions of a filament extruder and a plastic grinder. According to the UBC, it will cost US$5 to produce a kilogramme of filament with purchased plastic pellets, but the same process will be free when using plastic bottles. 

"Schools are including 3D printing as part of their science and technology curriculum, but the cost of having each student try a project can quickly become unaffordable," Oosterman said.

"With ProtoCycler, the students can try over and over until it's perfect, nearly for free, without harming the environment."