Last week Becca and Hannah took a mini Green Squirrel road trip to visit an inspiring project turning waste in a community resource.
Have you ever chucked a plastic tray or colourful pop bottle lid into the bin and thought – there must be a better way? All around the world the Precious Plastic movement is helping communities take control of their plastic waste by transforming it into a valuable resource. Paul Evans, founder of Soaring Supersaurus, is one of the people taking plastic waste into their own hands, and he kindly welcomed us into his workshop to explain how it all works, and how plastic recycling is part of his much larger vision.
Soaring Supersaurus started life as a circus-theatre company known as Flying Diplodocus, whose aim was to create work around societal issues and research how they could choreograph circus relevant to issues and individuals. Over time they felt that this was not enough, and started to think big!
Paul set up a base in Penrhys in Rhondda Cynon Taf, at the former Buffs social club. Here he has created a busy workshop where, together with Gareth (human) and Finley (dog) he is developing processes to turn local plastic waste into useable, beautiful, and unique objects.
It all begins with collection: the local church coffee shop and a number of other organisations are now collecting plastics, which Paul collects and sorts depending on the type and colour of plastic. The next step is the shredder – plastic of one type at a time gets fed into this slightly scary looking machine which churns out surprisingly beautiful flakes, ready to be melted down.
Paul and Gareth then work with the plastic in different ways. It can be pressed into flat sheets, smooth or textured, which can be moulded while still warm and bendy into things like plant pots – while we were there they were experimenting with making very cool looking dog bowls! It can also be cut into any shape imaginable, enabling them to make beautiful jewellery. Alternatively they can extrude the molten plastic (think giant playdough factory) to make – for example – the legs for a stool or a shelf bracket. Different colour plastics can be added to make interesting effects, and of course every piece is totally unique!
Right now their aims are to get reliable plastic drop offs in the quantities they need, and develop safe, fast, simple processes to allow the workshop to expand. But it doesn’t stop there… the goal is for the plastic workshop to support a wider arts and sustainability community, restoring the building where they’re based to offer an inclusive and creative community space. They’ve already begun creating a beautiful growing space outside with fruit trees and wildflowers, and their plans for the building include circus space, community growing space, and lots more. One of their next projects there will be to create a bench from plastic gathered entirely from the Penrhys community so people can enjoy the incredible views from their site.
Paul and Gareth explained that they are constantly learning. The Precious Plastic model is exciting but, although the designs to build machines and make recycled products are open source, so anyone can jump in and use them, some investment and a lot of learning is needed to get a new project off the ground, just like any new business. It was very exciting to see Paul and Gareth show us their ‘failures’ and how they are iterating towards amazing and useful products.
We found the work and the vision of Soaring Supersaurus so inspiring, and are planning to link their work with Railway Gardens by creating a plastics collection point there! If you’re interested in getting involved in this then please let us know. We’re also chatting with Paul about holding workshops on site where people can have a go at recycling plastics for themselves.
In the meantime, we’d encourage you to follow the journey of Soaring Supersaurus on Instagram or, if you’re in the northern Rhondda Cynon Taff area, get in touch on Paul@soaringsupersaurus.com if you can offer a source of plastic waste for them to work with.