Project Everest

[FEB 18][REPURPOSE] Playing with Plastic

Over the past week, the Cambodia ERS team have been hit with some massive roadblocks that have forced us to come to a complete standstill on our original monthly goals; so we pivot!


With four full days this week to test new ideas, the team is in the process of prototyping upcycling techniques for some of the most common waste found in Siem Reap. The three prototypes we have explored are:

  1. Making plastic string from plastic bottles.

  2. Reshaping and moulding plastic composites

  3. Recycling and upcycling plastic bags


Plastic String


First, we built a plastic bottle cutter; to see how we made it, check out the link below.


We were able to use a number of plastic bottles collected from the household waste including PET plastic, commonly used for water bottles and PP, from our vegetable oil bottle. However, the bottle needed to be in reasonably good condition, any that had being crushed or ‘reshaped’ would jam in the cutter.


Whist testing, we found a 600ml and 1.5L bottles would produce approximately 5.5 meters and 10.5 meters of ‘rope’ respectively at about 4mm width. The rope was also thin and flexible enough to make strong knots with it.


A strength test was also conducted; a single strand of PET rope could hold upto 12.25 kilos and stretch 50% of its initial length before the string snapped. When braided into a simple plait, initial testing showed the strength of the rope increase significantly as it could hold up to 40 kilos.


We are currently considering the ropes use in agriculture, specifically its usefulness to our Farm Ed team here in Cambodia, to make trellises for climbing plants.


We are interested in hearing what other ideas for testing and prototype use you have.


Shaping and moulding plastic bottles


We are currently finalising the process for moulding and shaping plastics safely and effectively.

The team will produce 3 small plastic blocks tomorrow using cuttings of 3 different types of plastics HDPE LDPE and PET.


Today, we will be moulding the melted plastic into bricks and testing the properties of each plastic type.  

Specifically, we want to measure the how quickly the plastic melts and cools, how well the plastic moulds, how brittle and how much weight the bricks can sustain.


If the process is viable, it will require further ideation, but exploration of extrusion is an interesting channel with many applications within the community.


If you have any interesting products that we could mould the plastic into, we would be very happy to hear it.


Upcycling Plastic Bags


Originally, we started prototyping the viability of upcycling plastic bags by crocheting them into reusable bags. However, we quickly found:


  • The PLARN (plastic yarn) was not very strong

  • Was very time consuming and inefficient;

  • Was wasteful to turn plastic bags in to yarn as the handles and bottom needed to be were removed.


After deeming the process unviable, the team have shifted focus to ideation on services that could result in the minimise the inflow of plastic bags into Cambodia and repurpose or recycle the ones that remain.


Pivoting has been a challenging process for the team to adapt too. However, we been given an exciting opportunity to test out new products and services, gaining a fuller appreciation for the Design Thinking process. Without a doubt the February team will be able to build on our work and create a viable product or service that meets the need of the Siem Reap community.

edited on 16th January 2019, 09:01 by Rose Gooding

Matthew Rafferty Jan 18, 2018

Good progress guys, I have a few questions that you can consider for the changes you've made.
- What kind of research have you done on the market for the recycled products? Will locals buy recycled products if new items are so readily available?
- Currently we purchase plastic bottles from the customers, are the up-cycled products able to be manufactured and sold to provide a profitable return?
- I love the idea of using the rope for the Farm Ed team, saves costs on ties/rope, but in the direct sun all day on the farms, have you considered UV breakdown? (similar for the melted blocks)

I hope these questions allow you to continue moving forward.
Venture On

Reply 1

Andrew Vild Jul 2, 2018

Status label added: Proposal not viable

Reply 0