Plastic bags are becoming a problem. Our landfills, our oceans and even our streets are becoming clogged with excess plastic bags thanks to their average consumer lifespan of less than 20 minutes. Over 100 billion plastic bags are discarded every year in the US alone.
If that doesn’t sound big enough, here’s the raw number: 100.000.000.000 plastic bags. Each year. That’s a lot of zeros and a lot of waste, as only 5% of that number actually gets recycled.
There have been attempts in the past to find a way to repurpose and recycle plastic bags, but they’ve mostly remained conceptual only. The Müll projectaims to change that, not by turning the plastic bags into a singular product, but by turning them into a multi-purpose building material.
Müll is a sustainability project started by industrial designer Carter Zufelt, a long-time Utah resident with an axe to grind with errant plastic bags. To combat the clutter and pollution caused by these bags, he’s engineered a new process that turns them into an utterly remarkable looking, carved marble-like material. This innovative new technique didn’t just happen overnight, though.
“The manipulation involves multiple baking sessions, twisting, folding, and compressing. I found, after months of experimentation with loads of failed attempts, that the trick is the right amount of heat coupled with the right amount of pressure. It’s a longer process, but, as you’ve seen, the end results are fantastic.” -Carter Zufelt
Using this material, which Zufelt claims is incredibly solid and nearly unbreakable, the industrial designer has created a variety of recycled plastic art pieces, including unique geometric paperweight cubes, handy coin bowls, aesthetic furniture and even colorful dice to spice up your next game night with friends and family.
Obviously, the applications for this new recycling technique are far more versatile than simply creating square pieces of recycled art from plastic, but there are drawbacks to Zufelt’s technique that are taking the wind out of the sails somewhat.
What started as Carter Zufelt’s Senior thesis in Industrial Design, had quickly grown into something potentially much larger. This new technique could make a real difference, and Carter took to popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to gauge the general public’s interest in recycled plastic cubes and pen holders.
The response was less enthusiastic than hoped for, as the project failed to reach their 25.000 dollar goal.
Undeterred, however, Zufelt learned from past mistakes for his next attempt. By restructuring his campaign perks, lowering his dollar goal, and offering some unexpected (and stylish) new recycled plastic creations, Zufelt’s second campaign took less than 4 days to be fully funded.
In fact, at the time of writing, Carter’s second Kickstarter campaign is still well on its way. Be sure to help him reach his goal if this article has made you hunger for your very own plastic bag sculpture, ring, or even keychain!