Wednesday 21 July 2021

Zero Waste Makers

Written by Emily Bowles

Zero Waste Makers

The Maldives is now home to the world’s first zero carbon plastic and aluminium recycling studio. Sublime learns how Makers Place has transformed the way the island lives.

Lying deep in the Maldives, you can find the world's first zero carbon plastic and aluminium recycling studio. Artist Alexander J Hamiliton originally founded the Distil Studios in 1988, since he has been travelling worldwide, creating and exploring. Alexander always kept the water at the core of his interests, particularly seeing first-hand the effect of pollution on our seas.

Alexander began the project to tackle the pollution caused by the drinks industry and feels that the planet has been neglected enough from just one aspect of the worlds waste. For example, the drinks industry alone has contributed to 15% of global warming in just the last ten years.

The facility can recycle between 40,000- 50,000 cans a month, acceding their initial target. The recycled aluminium waste will have a second life and is transformed into engineering-grade building materials and sculptural artworks.

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The excess packaging created by the beverage sector also plays a large part in the waste produced. Therefore, Makers Place is also home to a second node workshop built to focus on handling the plastic packaging aspect. From here, the plastics from packaging are transformed into tiles and shelving, creating a more sustainable end of life for these products.

It takes only 1/25th of the energy to recycle an old aluminium can into a new one, compared to creating a new can from scratch.

For over 35 years, Alexander has advocated for change at a community, island, and government level. Back in 1980, Alexander took to the sea, where he kayaked alone and unsupported for nine months.

He utilised this opportunity to distribute handmade aluminium can crushers to local hotels which held many guests. He suggested a proposition, to present the restaurant guests with the crushed can at the end of their meal with their bill, with the idea to take their waste home with them where recycling aluminium could be easily handled.

At the time, the waste was being buried in close by uninhabited islands. This caused problems with erosion and resulted in many smaller surrounding islands simply disappearing.

During this period, Alexander used marine debris to create a series of underwater sculptures and natural inventions. Alexander returned to the island in 2017, where he began a project titled 'Visions from the Shoreline'. The new collection was made up of both sculptural and photographic inventions. The Soneva Namoona Foundation and Makers Place received 20 pieces of art from the collection.

A problem the Maldives faces being an island is rising sea levels. However, something which is rarely talked about is the subject of thermal expansion. As the oceans water molecules heats up due to global warming, they create more energy and expands, resulting in a significant impact on rising sea levels.

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The Maldives currently relies on local boats to supply the island with everyday needs such as bottled water. The island doesn't have any facilities for recycling plastics and aluminium's which means the Maldives are constantly reliant on single-use plastics that have no way of being disposed of greenly.

This leads to Alexander’s creation of Makers place. Alexander has devoted his life work to protecting global water using fun and artistic bodies of work. Makers Place is just another extension of Alexanders creative inventions but with the ability to recycle and enable a full circle to the packaging consumed by the Maldives island.

The facility was designed, and hand fabricated by Alexander and his supply chain team. The machinery and processes have been specifically built for an island-based methodology remains entirely carbon neutral.

Inside the facility, you will find a closed-loop wash station that tackles the final material cleaning stage. Makers Place uses a unique two-stage filtration system. Using a granule media in one and then coconut charcoal in the other. Coconut charcoal is a great aid when it comes to the preservation of the islands freshwater supply. Alexander also installed a VOC (volatile organic compound) exhaust system to tackle the harmful fumes released from recycling plastic and melting of the shredded aluminium cans.

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You may be thinking what will happen to the water and VOC carbon filters when they have reached their end of life. Well, Alexander has a sustainable and eco-friendly answer. He decided he will store the harmful chemical waste locked inside building blocks dyed the colour red, which can be of use for construction around the island.

In just the first three days of the facility in operation, it managed to tackle 15,000 aluminium cans. But, of course, Alexander couldn't resist using this opportunity to celebrate with creating the 'Drink less' series inspired by the classic old glass coke bottles. He invites his audience to pay close attention to the impact of the drinks industry on the environment.

Click to find out more information about Makers Place.

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