The Black Sea is one of the most polluted ones in Europe, and most of the garbage is plastic. Thanks to a grant from the EU project “Improving Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea” (EMBLAS), a group of Odesa activists has developed a technology for recycling unsalable plastic, such as PET bottles and disposable tableware, into paving slabs.
A factory of the 1980s on the outskirts of the city: the concrete walls of the administrative building, old elevators, an elderly male gatekeeper who remembers how umbrellas were once made here, and then everything stopped. Now the premises are being rented on the territory and small producing units are operating.
A Dumskaya correspondent visited one of them. A group of enthusiasts make objet d’art and a bunch of useful things out of plastic garbage. And most recently, they started producing … paving slabs.
As we have already written, the Black Sea is one of the most polluted in Europe, that is why in 2016 the European Union launched the Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea (EMBLAS) project, which conducts continuous monitoring of the marine environment and develops various ways to combat pollution.
One of the directions of EMBLAS is the collection, processing and disposal of plastic waste, which is very common in the Black Sea.
“Sad to say, our Black Sea is twice as dirty as the Mediterranean, and the main garbage is, of course, plastic. Therefore, scientists and environmentalists have long been concerned about the problem of collecting and further use of garbage from the sea”, EMBLAS coordinator Olena Marushevska says.
There are many ways to sort and reuse plastic. By processing, you get a lot of useful things of good plastic (lids and containers) – from cutting boards and key chains and ending with toys and elements of training equipment. A group of Odesans who call themselves Precious plastic Ukraine has developed the technology of using illiquid plastic – PET bottles and disposable tableware. Such garbage is crushed into crumbs, which is heated and the melt is poured into moulds. This is how paving slabs are made. It can be made smooth and rough – depending on where it will be laid and what it will be used for.
Project manager Yevhen Khliebnikov told Dumskaya that there had already been attempts to make such a slab, but for some reason other testers were adding sand, which made the product not as strong and reliable as one would like.
“Last fall, we received a grant from the EU under EMBLAS for research on plastic recycling,” Evhen says. – We have calculated the melting point and further processing, tested the technology and are ready to start production at full capacity. We were just interested in learning how to make something good out of completely illiquid, useless plastic that used to be burned.”
The first batch of smooth and rough tiles is ready. Now the inventors, together with EMBLAS scientists, are looking for a suitable place in the city where many people go to lay an experimental coating there and see how reliable and durable it will be. To begin with, it is planned to lay 12 square meters.
We were shown all stages of production. Here is the sorting of plastic: part goes to more valuable things, part – to the manufacture of paving slabs. Here the illiquid is cut, then loaded into a special well-heated press. Here comes the soldered mass. It can be immediately poured into prepared moulds or, when it is cooled, it is cut into the desired pieces.
In the Precious Plastic Ukraine shop, three people work – Evhen Khliebnikov himself, his assistant Kateryna and volunteer Vlad.
Olena Marushevska stressed that if the Odesa experience proves successful, it will be adopted by Georgian colleagues who also participate in EMBLAS.
“There is a lot of plastic garbage on the coast of Batumi – these are the peculiarities of the Black Sea, Georgian colleagues are more interested than anyone in its processing. If our tiles are good in operation, we will take this project to Batumi in the second half of the summer”, the project coordinator summed up.
Author: Alona Balaba