Ars ElectronicaSTARTS PRIZEHonorary Mention 2020 Precious Plastic Universe Honorary Mention In every corner of the world, people are struggling with plastic waste. Plastic hardly gets collected and from the collected material only a fraction gets recycled (global average around 9%). In most cases it ends up burnt, in landfills, or harming our nature. The reason for this low recycling rate is that traditional recycling machinery typically requires huge capital investment and is often patented and proprietary. In addition to this technology accessibility problem, consumer culture and behavior continue to view plastic as cheap and disposable instead of valuable. The Precious Plastic Universe aims to boost plastic recycling globally by making it more understandable and accessible for everyone. We develop open source recycling machines, products, and online collaboration tools so that anyone can become part of our alternative plastic recycling ecosystem, called the Precious Plastic Universe. We developed the Precious Plastic Universe over the past year and released it into the world in January 2020. At the center of the Universe are our starterkits, which are packages of tools and tutorials to help people create sustainable businesses around each step of the plastic recycling value chain from plastic collection, machine manufacturing, shredding, and product production. This local network of independent organizations in each city, town, or region form a new ecosystem of plastic recycling that keeps material local and recycles it into new valuable products. It’s a system which allows everyone to understand the recycling process and take an active role in plastic recycling in a way that encourages behavior change towards reducing the amount of single use plastic consumed. It’s through seeing plastic waste transformed locally into new valuable products that we can all begin to understand that plastic is precious. The Precious Plastic Universe is open source under a Creative Commons license. Credits With support from: Famae Foundation and Municipality of Eindhoven Foto: Dave Hakkens Dave Hakkens (NL) is a designer who lives and works in Eindhoven. Although an industrial designer by trade, he also loves to build machinery and make videos. His mantra is simple: “Try to make the world better by making things.” It doesn’t really matter whether it’s an inspirational video, machines to recycle plastic, or a phone concept—as long as it pushes the world in a better direction, he is interested. In 2018 he won a €300,000 Famae award for his project Precious Plastic and invited over 100 volunteers from all over the world to the Netherlands to help develop Precious Plastic Version 4. His next project is about upcycling textiles to reduce fashion waste. Jury Statement Precious Plastic opens a new perspective on waste and sustainability, while empowering local communities and creatives. The project is open source with over 400 projects globally using the Precious Plastic recycling system where local recycling workspaces process plastic waste into new products. It works because it’s easy, shareable, and open to everybody, prompting local collective environmental action. Precious Plastic offers a compelling vision for the future of a Green Europe, following the trajectory of maker spaces, fab-cities, and civic technology hubs. It shows how a global community led by creators, designers, and engineers can be harnessed to tackle one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems. It’s a fresh approach fit for the environmentally conscious youth: It‘s our future—we need to have a say, and we have the tools to create change! In times of crisis, we are urged to change our behavior and adapt to the new circumstances for the greater good of society. The Precious Plastic Universe pushes us to embrace a new mindset while opening production pathways into a new sustainable future and putting communities first. View full Jury Statement here.