Fresh-Baked Plastic Tiles For All!

Recycling aims to better the planet, but — taken into the hands of the individual — it can be a boon for one’s home by trading trash for building materials. [fokkejongerden], a student at the [Delft University of Technology] in the Netherlands, proposes one solution for all the plastic that passes through one’s dwelling by turning HDPE into tiles.

Collecting several HDPE containers — widely used and easy enough to process at home — [fokkejongerden] cleaned them thoroughly of their previous contents, and then mulched them with a food processor. An aluminium mold of the tile was  then welded together making sure the sides were taller than the height of the tile. A second part was fabricated as a top piece to compress the tile into shape.

After preheating an oven to no hotter than 200 degrees Celsius, they lined the mold with parchment paper and baked the tile until shiny(90-120 minutes). The top piece was weighed down (clamping works too), compressing the tile until it cooled. A heat gun or a clothes iron did the trick to smooth out any rough edges.

Not only does [fokkejongerden]’s tiles give the recycler plenty of artistic freedom for creating their own mosaic floor, the real gem is the adaptable plastic recycling process for home use. For another method, check out this recycled, recycling factory that turns bottles in to rope and more! There’s even the potential for fueling your 3D printer.

[Via Instructables]

39 thoughts on “Fresh-Baked Plastic Tiles For All!

      1. Exactly the opposite – heating things is probably the n1 energy consumer in the industrial sector.
        At home, you’ll have a much easier time using the waste heat for something useful, like keeping the house warm.
        On an industrial level, it’s expensive getting the assload of heat to where it could be used for something useful, which is why it’s not done as often as you’d expect.

  1. The recycling of plastic is a slightly interesting topic. What follows is my own unresearched understanding based upon second-hand or nth-hand knowledge, but I know I’m smart (aren’t we all?), so I can’t possibly be entirely wrong.

    Plastics are formed by polymerisation of monomers. Styrene becomes polystyrene. Ethylene becomes polyethylene, which with the appropriate additives and treatment can be HDPE. The molecules of the plastic are long-chain hydrocarbons, and in general the longer the chain the stronger the plastic. When the stuff is originally manufactured most of the monomer reacts suitably, but some is left over. Various tricks of chemical engineering are used to persuade as much as possible to polymerise properly, but there is a remainder that didn’t join the chain, and is left over as dimers and trimers, etc. It gets used for other purposes. Perhaps it gets burned to help heat the factory. That’s one kind of recycling. The end result of the original manufacturing is virgin plastic.

    Sometimes there is a lot of plastic scrap lurking about the floor of the factory, or in the gizzards of the plumbing. It can be ground up and re-inserted into the stream. It is called regrind, another kind of recycling. In general it has a molecular chain length shorter than top-quality virgin polymer.

    In post-consumer recycling the polymers, perhaps sorted out into chemical types, are ground up or melted. The result suffers from short chain length and contamination with junk that isn’t a molecular chain at all. Think of chopping up a plate of spaghetti. Long spaghetti will wind about on your fork. Short little pieces of spaghetti will slither away and require a soup spoon.

    Too much recycled plastic mixed into a product will cause the material to be weak. Perhaps it will easily photodegrade or it will behave badly during injection moulding. It is thus the duty of the recycling engineer–here, that’ll be our [fokkejongerden]–to find techniques and applications in which the poor strength is not a problem, or perhaps is even a virtue. And look! There is an opportunity for Yet Another Hackaday Project: “Testing the durability of [fokkejongerden]’s plastic tiles.”

    1. Very relevant commentary. As I was refining my process (to get rid of the bubbles), I found that my plastics parts were getting briittle. The sizeof the plastic chips matters….. Make so much sense now. Ok.Then I will reduce the number of cuts, meaning I will melt HDPE sheets instead of HDPE chips. Like I was doing at first. (I just need to find another way to get rid of the air bubbles.) The spaghetti example is excellent. Can’t wait to cook it. Thank you.

    2. The same thing applies to recycled paper. Recycled paper has shorter fibers and is weaker and less durable. And the more times it gets recycled the worse the issue becomes. There’s no free lunch. Reusing or re-purposing is often a better choice.

    1. wow… that would be great, it would also mean that you never have to clean the floor anymore, because well… nobody notices.

      But seriously now, we all know that plastic will expand when it is heated. So on hot days the tiles get slightly bigger and smaller when the temperature drops. This causes the tiles to warp (when heated unevenly (from one side by the sun)) which will smooth out when the tile is completely warmed up by the sun. The same happens the other way around, but less noticeable.

      Anyway, the tiles will loosen over time (as they push the sand away when the expand). So one tile will no be a problem. but a complete set of these tiles covering the street or pavement will generate serious problems that get bigger and bigger over time. I’m no expert, but I would not recommend this on a larger scale. Stay with 1 tile and the project stays fun.

    2. That could be a feature, like the dirt-hiding pattern on rugs and countertops. If you want a solid color though just separate the colors as the plastic scraps are ground up. The bottom layers can be a mix, the top layer gets a solid color.

      1. um… that’s not how rock climbing works.

        He’s talking about making plastic holds for use in indoor “gym” style climbing. For this style of climbing you only climb up a max of 10 to 15 feet and always fall or jump down from the top anyway. For indoor “lead climbing” where it’s 30 to 40 feet… you have a rope and if the hold breaks or you fall, the rope catches you. You never use plastic or any “man made” holds for outdoor climbing… you use rocks :)

        either way, you’re fine. And using recycled plastic to make climbing holds is a pretty cool application.

      2. By and large, climbing holds are used indoors. They are screwed into the walls for practice climbing.

        Also, by and large climbing is done with a partner, and the climber is on belay. If a hold breaks you drop onto the belay line (which has 5% – 15% stretch) and stop.

        It’s no different from having your hand slip off a hold, which happens a lot.

        There’s a variant called “bouldering”, where one climbs without a partner, but this is done with soft pads and at a low height – typically your feet are never off the ground higher than your shoulders would be when standing on the ground.

  2. It’d be more fun if the constituent particles of the tile were recognizable shapes. Maybe have a first step producing a thin sheet, and use a cookie cutter-type device to cut shapes out. Then use the shapes, and some small fragments as filler, to make the tile.

  3. I think his multi-colored speckled tile is quite pretty! But I believe it would get scuffed up and dull looking very quickly. And how well will it hold up to a lot of weight pressed down in a small area, such as a chair or table leg?

    1. My first thought wasn’t for tiles, but machining.

      I wonder how these blocks stand up to CNC machining. Can we use these as raw materials for home milling?

      A quick eBay search shows that a comparable HDPE sheet is about $8, depending on the thickness. If you make 10 tiles and use them as stock, that saves $80.

  4. The problem with post-consumer recycled materials like this is often that the granules will melt and form a modest bond, but will show inter-granular tear/fracture because of poor fusion, contamination etc. Applications have to be chosen carefully, and the granules should be washed/cleaned though that can be quite a process, particularly if they’re contaminated with silicone/PTFE compounds. For the right applications and good processing this can be a great use for materials – plastic composite lumber used for decking, park benches etc. in the US is a good example.

  5. “Sorry Chief, once we arrived on-scene the fire was spreading across the floor tiles so fast, it was out of control. There was nothing we could do to save the poor Hipster-Makers occupying the structure.”

  6. An interesting project. As others have said, it might not be practical where color, strength, or dimensional stability is important. But there are lots of non-critical applications for recycled plastics.

    A local recycler used to make giant Lego bricks out of recycled plastic. They were the size of full-size bricks (about 7.5″ x 3.5″ x 3″), but hollow (maybe 1/8″ wall thickness). The colors and surface textures were random. They were sold as toys; not serious building bricks. Unfortunately they got sued by the Lego company, and stopped making them.

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