Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic that pollute our environment, they are normally 0.1 millimetres in width which makes them very hard to remove, as they can often not be seen by the human eye. There are a growing number of small-scale plastic recycling companies in Kenya, who are helping to tackle the plastic waste problem, however, unfortunately, they are also emitting microplastics due to them having an ineffective washing process. Currently, the vast majority of these recyclers wash the plastic by hand using unnecessary amounts of water and they then dump the wastewater without using any filtration system, releasing harmful microplastics into the environment.
This brings up a design opportunity to create a solution to sustainably and economically wash shredded plastic in preparation for the recycling process. Preventing microplastics from entering the environment and saving water would be the two main goals of my product.
Design Goal: From my research, I have learned that small-scale plastic recyclers in Kenya do not currently have any appropriate solution to the contamination of microplastics in the water after it has been washed. Current methods of filtering microplastic from when they wash their shredded plastic products are non-existent. I intend to solve this problem by designing a low-cost solution to effectively wash waste plastics that do not waste water and filter out microplastics making sure they do not pollute the environment.
Target market: This product would be directly targeted at small scale recyclers of plastic here in Kenya. They are generally located in larger polluted cities such as Nairobi, Nakuru, and Mombasa. They are constituted as small due to them having a limited capacity for recycling various plastics. Below are pictures of 4 small scale recyclers who are the “ideal” user:
Possible Scenarios: A small-scale recycler realizes that when he washes his shredded plastic, most of the water is contaminated with microplastics. Since he wants his business to be more sustainable, he is looking for solutions to filter out the microplastics. Other possible scenarios could be government legislation or consumer pressure. Examples of this would be the firm called Texplast Industries, where one of their larger customers of raffia bags, Unilever, urged them to invest in a recycling facility to become more environmentally conscious since that is what the customers demand.