Pedal-powered plastic shredder helps Winnipeg's ArtsJunktion get creative for Earth Week
Organization that repurposes used art supplies has new stationary bike that shreds plastic waste
A Winnipeg-based arts group is using pedal power to transform types of plastic that aren't accepted in the city's recycling program into useful new things.
ArtsJunktion is a drop-off point for used art supplies and other items, which are made into crafts. The group has unveiled new equipment for Earth Week: a bedazzled stationary bike that shreds plastic waste into little bits.
Those chips will then be fed into the group's new injector. The plastic will be melted down and squeezed into moulds to make crates for storing the crayons, buttons and other craft supplies overflowing from its shelves.
"We work very hard to create an environment that helps people get creative with recycled materials," said the group's executive director, Helga Jakobson.
Jakobson said ArtsJunktion prevents about four metric tonnes a month of material from going into the landfill. Most of the items it collects are shared with community members, who drop by to pick up supplies at "pay what you can" prices. The rest is recycled, if possible.
"If you're able to utilize the leftover paints from your house reno project, or share a bag of clay instead of buying new, that's a lot less plastic and packaging. There's a smaller carbon footprint."
The group's new equipment takes aim at the stuff it isn't able to use: the plastics that aren't accepted in Winnipeg's blue box program.
While many plastics can go in the recycling bins, some — like plastic cutlery or any black plastics — can't be recycled in Winnipeg.
"We're trying to tackle recycling in the best way that we can, without buying into some of the myths around recycling," said Jakobson.
Much of the plastic Canadians throw into blue boxes isn't actually recycled. Plastic waste is routinely shipped to developing countries and dumped, sometimes illegally. Along the way, some of the lightweight material blows away, polluting waterways.
ArtsJunktion teamed up with bike recyclers at The WRENCH (Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub) to make the machine. Everything from disposable drink lids to cannabis containers is tossed into the hopper.
The depot's manager, Julian Kirchmann, was breathing a bit heavily as he pedalled the bike on Wednesday, turning the shredder's blades.
"Sometimes you get a larger piece of plastic going through and you have to use a bit more tension," he said with a giggle.
"Eventually we'd like to get a motor attached to it," said Kirchmann. "But for now, the bike is a fun way to present to the public how you can very much be part of the recycling effort."
ArtsJunktion plans to take the bike to schools to teach kids the realities around plastic waste — and potential ways to put it to use.
Volunteer and artist Francis Liwanag said some of his projects were inspired by the discarded items he found at the depot.
He said helping others find the right piece of metal or swatch of fabric for their artwork is "very rewarding."
"We get all sorts of people who come in here," said Liwanag. "I like to see them smile. They're looking for something and one item can just brighten up their day."
The depot holds regular workshops on turning trash into treasure, including two sessions at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants can learn how to make a collage, and can create buttons to send a message for Earth Week (the week leading up to Earth Day on April 22).
"There's more than enough materials already on the Earth to get creative with," said Jakobson.
"When we focus less on purchasing new things, we're able to create an immediate impact on the environment. And there's just no reason not to reuse."