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The Precious Plastic Initiative Aims To Change An Unhealthy Relationship

The Precious Plastic Initiative Aims To Change An Unhealthy Relationship

Phil Uwe Widiger
Words by
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Published September 20, 2018

Sometimes we need a reminder that even small actions—and a small number of people—can change the world. Björn Steinar Blumenstein and Brynjólfur Stefánsson are such a reminder. In just a little over two months, they built a container, four different plastic recycling machines and moved from Skeifan to their new location at Grandi.

Creating a shift in thinking

Precious Plastic began as Dave Hakkens’ graduation project from the design academy in Eindhoven, Netherlands, in 2013. Keeping all the building plans for his recycling machines open-source and thus available to virtually anyone, the project grew fast and today, there are about 600 plastic recycling workshops to be found worldwide.

After having a Precious Plastic Workshop in China, Björn decided to bring the project to Iceland, with the help of his friend Brynólfur. “We’re trying to change the mindset of people towards plastic,” Brynjólfur says. Adds Björn:” I believe the best way to do it is when you bring us a broken lunch box and you can transform it into something new through a few simple steps. It creates a shift in thinking.”

Education is the key

The duo puts a lot of emphasis on education. Workshops in both primary schools and the Iceland Academy of the Arts are planned. “We want to use our skills to create products that explain a bit of a backstory about plastic,” Björn states. “Plastic waste is a huge problem and we need to start looking towards solutions. Even if this may not be the final solution, it is still bloody trying.”

Shame on you, Iceland

Whereas some countries have already implemented plastic recycling strategies, Iceland is still far behind. Björn and Brynjólfur explain that even though plastic is collected in recycling bins, it is then shipped to Sweden, where it is burned for electricity. But just like China, Sweden does not want Iceland’s plastic anymore.

“Plastic is a wonder material, but we have a very unhealthy relationship with it. We have to learn to value it.”

“Plastic is a wonder material but we have a very unhealthy relationship with it,” Björn says. “We have to learn to value it — that’s why the project is called ‘Precious Plastic.’” Iceland could be a plastic-free nation if it wanted to, Brynjólfur adds. “It’s ridiculous that we are not doing this yet.”

Don’t give up hope

Even though the project has received funding from the City of Reykjavík and machine parts from several companies, both Brynjólfur and Björn are only doing this in their freetime. The duo aims to work with designers in the future, who shape the raw material crafted by Precious Plastic into new products. Collaborations with Arctic Surfers and the Reykjavík Tool Library to make fins for surfboards or hand pedals from locally scavenged scraps are also in the works. “I guess it’s about proving a point,” Björn says. “It’s not time to give up hope quite yet.”

So here it is, your reminder that no matter how small things seem to be, they can still change the world. Precious Plastic, you’re the real MVP.

Bring your broken plastic to the Precious Plastic container at Grandi to have it recycled into something new.


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