Precious Plastic Pilot – Maldives, Product Design

@cymek and I are in the Maldives working in the Precious Plastic shipping container til early May.

While we’re here, one of our focuses is to create various products to show the local community what’s possible with the PP machines.

Particularly, we’re focusing on constructing objects using beams from the extruder.

All in all, the workspace is pretty well-outfitted. After spending some time in it though, we realized it could use a “hang out area” where people can relax when they’re visiting the container. We saw this as a good opportunity to put plastic beams/objects to use.

Our plan is to build out a space with furniture, etc. underneath the veranda which folds out at the end of the shipping container by the display area.


We have a few guiding principles that are helping us decide what we create and how we create it:

Useful – (of course)
Culturally relevant – so that the objects feel like they belong here
Replicable – so that others can continue to make them after we’ve left

Very roughly, the sketch below shows what we have in mind: some places to sit, tables, planters, a shade guard, among other ideas that pop up as we move forward.


As we built out the space, we designed it so that it could be set up and torn down easily each day.

We used this quick release method for all of the hanging objects (chairs, planters, light fixtures).

Suspending objects (specifically chairs) also reduced the amount of space they took up when stored since they didn’t need frames/legs.

Lattice, planters, light fixtures and hanging storage for plants when space is closed

Ocean rope table – made from discarded marine rope

Display table – functioned as centerpiece to showcase smaller PP creations

Beam bench

Joalie Chair with Coconut Rope

In the end we created a collection of objects which functioned as a space for visitors to hang out where they could experience the possibilities a Precious Plastic workspace offers firsthand. Below are some images of our work.

A few observations.


1 good job at getting the extrusion running.
2 Instead of lashing the beams together, try plastic welding.  The welding machines are around 100USD.  You can also extrude your own weld rod as a bonus.  (see youtube for plastic welding)

3 It looks like the material going into the beam molds is freezing before it can fully fill the mold. This results in the bumpy lines and uneven extrusion.  I realized this from seeing the injection mold (see the surfboard project posts) results and personal experience.  Also if the plastic cools down too fast it will warp and do all sorts of unwanted results.    I would try wrapping the first half meter of the mold with something to insulate it.  It does not have to be 100% insulated, rather just slow the cooling down so the mold fills completely.
4 The furniture is a great product to keep the project sustainable in the long run.  It has to generate real value items that people will pay for.  Otherwise without income, it just is another hippie arts and crafts project and will not put a dent in the plastic waste.

And here’s a clearer pic of the two hammock (Jolie) chairs

Along with the hammock chairs, I built a bench using square tube, angle, and extruded plastic beams.

As the “hangout area” has grown, more and more workers have been spending time at the workspace watching us work and enjoying the furniture. It’s been cool to see that building the hang out space is actually helping attract people over to the container to see what’s going on.

Managers of the waste management company, some of whom started out skeptical of what we could do here with PP, got excited about the bench and asked us to make more 🙂

We’ve also nailed down a list of objects we’ll work on next to complete the space.

**– bench

****– side table

****– planters

****– sun shade

****– light fixture

**– entry step

This week we completed two hammock chairs.

I found a circular saw at the worksite, so I used that instead of the jigsaw to cut the channels for the second chair, which made cutting consistent channels much easier to achieve. All in all, the chairs are pretty easy to construct, which is nice.

Some workers at the waste management site where we’re located gave us pointers to tie the net.

And one of the managers, Akram asked us to make more chairs to hang around the worksite (good validation 🙂 We’ll do that once we’ve completed some more of the items for our hang out zone.

To make the half-lap joints, I cut five channels into the beams using a jig saw, then chiseled the material out using the channels as a guide. Pre-cutting is important – Chiseling without pre-cutting caused the beams to blow out and be rendered useless (or at least need to be cut shorter to remove broken material)

To create the first frame, we’re using half-lap joints and lashing them together with discarded plastic boat rope found on the shoreline. This method seems to work nicely – the frame feels solid and uses discarded ocean plastic as a fastener rather than new screws, nails, etc. It would also be easy to repair in the future if something were to happen, whereas if a screw tears out the repair might be more challenging.

The first object we’re working on is a hammock chair, inspired by the many we’ve seen around the islands. They’re all over the islands, both on legged frames and hanging from trees above. People use them at all hours of the day here, so they feel like a good place to start as they’ll be useful, relevant, and should be pretty easy to construct.