Island Upcycling Initiatives

Island nations all burn plastic and discard in landfills or the ocean, including recyclables, globally

The problem is simple, any value to recyclable plastic is lost in the cost of moving plastic off an island. We want to see single-use throwaway plastic products removed from society in favor or benign alternatives. Banning single-use throwaways, like bags and straws is one solution, and produce responsibly for the lifecycle of products and packaging is another.

Solar Plastic Kiln Project

How can we avoid incineration of plastic trash in island communities? That was the question answered by the development of The Solar Plastic Kiln, which uses the power of the sun to melt common plastic ocean pollution into useful materials like bricks or boards. The 5 Gyres Institute worked with Swift Engineering, STEAMtank, and Packaging 2.0 to develop and execute the project.

The Solar Plastic Kiln piloted in the Bahamas in 2016 and was further developed with the support of 11th Hour Racing to also include a plastic shredder. This consumer-oriented practical solution, developed under the direction of Dr. Marcus Eriksen, 5 Gyres’ Co-Founder and Research Director, is displayed through June 2017 in the 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zone at the Bermuda base of Sir Ben Ainslie’s British America’s Cup team, Land Rover BAR. Visitors are able to shred plastic, which is not recycled in Bermuda, and turn it into flower pots.

Project Sponsors

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Photos above credit to Harry KH/Land Rover BAR

The design uses solar panels to create electricity, elements (like those found in a toaster oven) to heat metal plates, and simple aluminum molds to reform durable plastic goods, such as buckets and crates made from polyethylene and polypropylene. The plastic is melted to prevent the formation of furans or dioxins. “We’re not about to tell someone, ‘Stop using plastic buckets to fetch water,'” Eriksen said. “But now we can say, ‘Don’t burn that broken bucket. We have a better idea.'”


An Island Solution

By creating a portable mold system, powered by solar, wind, water or power grid, we are producing products from plastic waste and eliminating the need to burn or discard.

Creating circular economies with plastic.

Local remanufacture is one part of the complex transition to a circular economy.

The kiln is strictly for durable goods used locally, like buckets and crates. While we may put some large plastics washed ashore into the kiln, we want to focus on transforming the good quality plastic on islands to be remanufactured into something new, rather than incinerated.

Fulcrums STEAMtank initiative, designed and developed the kiln and molds to be packable into a suitcase, it can be a complete system fitting in a suitcase along with the shredder, kiln and panels.

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