Student Research Paper
Engineering and Physics
Each year Americans throw away 35 billion plastic bottles. The goal of our project is to demonstrate an alternative to simply discarding unwanted plastic. Our process shows how plastic bottles can be transformed into coasters by using a blender, mold, and heat press. We focused on high-density polyethylene (HDPE) since it is readily available and safe to work with. HDPE is often thrown away because it is not always economical to recycle due to its low yield. Many hours of testing and visits to the fabrication lab taught us about the tribulations of upcycling plastic and the complexities that come with creating a mold for new products. We conducted multiple blending, heating, cooling, pressing, and extracting tests to determine the optimal plastic piece size, press conditions, and mold transferring methods. Fall semester, we focused on designing a process for collecting and processing plastic while determining ideal operating conditions for the heat press. This spring, we altered old molds, designed new molds, and tested rapid cooling methods. Our ability to design a process that produces one coaster in approximately 30 minutes using only a heat-press proves that this alternative solution to plastic waste has great potential to be scaled up.
Uroda, Lianne, "Upcycling Plastic Via Thermal Compression" (2020). Engineering: Student Scholarship & Creative Works. 3.