Green Team hosts Daniel Quilter, whose project upcycles used plastic into new products

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Sabrina Zhu

The Green Team invited Daniel Quilter to speak about his plastic upcycling project in Malaysia on April 26. Quilter’s project uses the Precious Plastic machine, which can convert used plastic into upcycled objects like coasters, clocks, utensils, and more.

by Sabrina Zhu, Assistant STEM editor

The Green Team invited Daniel Quilter to speak about his plastic upcycling project in Malaysia on April 26. As part of the club’s Earth day activities, Quilter explained the effects of plastic on our planet and how his work can minimize the harm of excessive waste to upper school students and faculty members.

Quilter’s project uses the Precious Plastic machine, which can convert used plastic into upcycled objects like coasters, clocks, utensils, and more. After moving to Malaysia in 2005, he realized how much waste littered the streets.

“But over here, [plastic is] all over the streets, when you walk down the streets. I’ve been chased by plastic as soon as I landed in Malaysia in 2005,” Quilter said. “It was plastic everywhere, and from there, I really wanted to do stuff about plastic and recycling.”

At the start of the pandemic early last year, Quilter and his team began to regularly use the Precious Plastic machine, a recently developed technology that can convert waste into new products. First, the plastic is shredded into small pieces, and then it is melted and injected into specially designed molds. Currently, Quilter can only use the injection mold to make small objects, as he is limited by the volume of plastic available to him, but he hopes to expand in the future and create products like chairs or stools.

“The things we can do, at the moment, we can only make small things, but if we increase the volume of the plastic, we can make bigger things. We want to upgrade as we grow and have the money to buy the molds,” he said.

Although it may seem like plastic itself is the real problem, Quilter explained that it is not. Instead, the way that our waste is managed causes much more damage to our environment. Living in the United States, we often do not see where our trash goes: most times, unfortunately, it ends up in the earth’s oceans and rivers, and the plastic is not recycled properly.

“Plastic is actually designed to be recycled, that’s what we focus on: campaigning for kinds of plastic that can be recycled. The main thing is just to manage your waste and to investigate and learn what happens to your waste. I’ve spoken to a lot of students so far, and none of them know what happens to the waste,” Quilter said. “It’s also campaigning for things like Coca Cola and these brands, they’re the ones who have the money, they’re the ones who should be researching and making products that are truly biodegradable.”

Namrata Karra (10), who attended Quilter’s speaker event, enjoyed the presentation because of how interactive it was. Quilter asked the attendees if they had any ideas about what new products he should make with his machine.

“It was really eye opening to see how much damage plastic does all over the world and how it’s affecting the people who aren’t creating the damage. It’s more big corporations who use a lot of plastic and it ends up in the ocean, and these people have to pay for it by cleaning up,” Namrata said. “So I learned that it’s everywhere, and we all have to do our part in making it get better.”