Here’s the good news about turning trash into treasure: it’s not about melting plastic waste in large recycling plants anymore.


In Taiwan’s capital, Kai-yu Kamm, co-founder of Fabraft, designed and constructed the Mobile Fab, an ordinary bike fitted with a computer and 3-D printer programmed for just one purpose: turning plastic cups and bottles into medallions that anyone can wear or attach to the spokes of their bike wheels.

For Kai-yu Kamm, the idea of turning waste into something usable and wearable is one step toward making both recycling and 3-D printing more easily accessible to everyone.

The mobile device comes with wires, tubes, pumps and display panels — all of which are essential in turning the entire machine into that which creates the medallions.

The plastic waste is first cut into strips before being ground into a fine powder, which serves as the ink for the printer.

Today, the machine is designed to recycle only polypropylene, or no. 5 plastic, to enable a uniform melting point.

Each medallion is made for free for those who provide the plastic. And although the mobile fab can actually create any forms or shapes fed into the computer program, the medallions are by far the machine’s standard output.

Some of the funds used to build the mobile fab came from the government, as part of its strategies to support homegrown talents. This encourages aspiring designers to innovate even further as Taiwan aims to host the 2016 World Design Capital, a yearly gathering by the Montreal-based International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.

Although the mobile contraption accepts only no. 5 plastic as its “ink,” it seems the average Taiwanese will not face any shortage of such material anytime soon, as pearl-milk tea, a popular refreshment sold in cups made of such plastic material, remains popular across the island.