Project "Plastic Fantastic"

Australian Indigenous Community 3D Prints Plastic Waste

Plastic Fantastic

By turning used plastic into sunglasses, phone cases and toys, 3D printing is being used to encourage children to go to school. 

An indigenous Australian community from Milingimbi, a small island off Arnhem Land, in Australia’s Northern Territory, have created the program called Plastic Fantastic.

The Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA) are hoping to both encourage children to attend school and also to increase their engagement there while they learn from elders in the community.

Lisa Somerville, the ALPA project coordinator who came up with the idea, said to ABC, “We wanted to create an incentive for kids who go to school 100 percent of the time and build on that.”

She has been working with the Yolngu community to teach people about which types of water and soft drink bottles, and other plastic containers could be recycled.

Milingimbi school attendance officers Leandra Dhurrkay and Jason Wandji have been working with their community to collect rubbish and teach children.

“There is lots of plastic around the community,” Ms. Dhurrkhay said. “At every camp and in every street there are plastic bottles lying around. It is good that we are using all that.”

Community members, students, the council and work-for-the-dole program workers are collecting the suitable rubbish so it can be shredded and put through a plastic melting machine. “What comes out of that machine, once it’s melted, is like it’s coming out of a pasta machine,” Ms. Somerville said.

australian phone

This material is then wound into a 3D printer and is already connected to a computer where the designs can be made.

“Today we made iPhone cases, and we had to have precise measurements,” Ms. Somerville said.”Everybody was very invested in getting measurements right to fit their phones.”

The children and elders have also been designing toys and sunglasses frames.

Ms Somerville recently shared her project model at a talk in the Northern Territory country town of Katherine, and will expand the initiative to two other East Arnhem communities — Ramingining and Galiwinku.

What do you think of this project? Would it have encouraged you to want to go to school?