What is MELT?

MELT is a circular economy innovation studio. We are a student-run organization that was founded in 2016 and works closely with UBC. Our goal is to build the knowledge and environment required to create a circular economy.

We believe in the three core values of a circular economy popularized by the Ellen MacArthur foundation: keep products in use, add value to waste, and use regenerative materials that can do good for the environment. We practice these principles by providing education and access to tools for individuals.

We are inspired by Precious Plastic, an organization that is trying to boost plastic recycling worldwide by providing open source tools and knowledge to people around the world. Precious plastic has developed and published plans for four machines – a shredder, an extruder, an injection moulder, and a compression oven – that allow anyone to build a local plastic recycling workshop. 

The four key open-source Precious Plastic machines

Our lab is a place where everyone, can accomplish their circular projects and an educational hub where students can learn immersively about how different materials can be reused. It is a place to experiment with ideas and build prototypes. Everything is DIY and built as needed; most projects typically result in us creating new processes and building new tools.

We believe recycling is far too passive in its current form. We currently “recycle” the same way we “throw out” – by putting plastic in a bin. After it is taken away, we have no idea what becomes of it; whether 8% or 80% is recycled, or whether that recycling takes place in Burnaby or Jakarta. To most consumers, plastic becomes recycled the moment it enters the recycling bin. But the process of recycling involves far more than putting a bento box into the right bin. It requires sorting, washing it out, shredding, and reassembling the plastic into a new object.

MELT aims to bring the recycling process close to home and make it as hands-on as possible. We believe this is the best way to build our community’s waste literacy, allowing anyone to learn how different materials can be reused and the different properties that make the materials useful. This is why our logo is a recycling symbol composed of human hands.

MELT Collective “Recycled By Hand” logo

Introducing a hands-on approach to recycling may also change the perceived value of plastic. By making handmade craft objects out of plastic – in the same manner as a ceramic mug or wooden chair passed down in the family – we may start to reduce the perception of it as a disposable material and bring appreciation to its unique properties.

MELT started with a focus on plastic reprocessing, but just as our projects have started embracing alternative materials we have since expanded to tackle other issues concerning waste from different perspectives.

MELT is also driven by the concept of building a transdisciplinary environment. We want to create a space where collaboration is valued and it doesn’t matter where you come from. We want to create a space where everyone, regardless of your faculty – or if you are even part of UBC – can contribute.

Our long-term goal is to change the concept of waste from an obscure, hazardous material into that of a valuable and useful resource. As we look towards the future, we hope to create a new virtual platform that complements our physical space by sharing education and helping provide access to tools.