UBC Graduate Research

Melt Collective : Circular Economy Innovation Lab Chandrakesuma, Valerine


My thesis tells the story of of MELT Collective, a Circular Economy Innovation Lab at UBC. Here, complex recycling processes are distilled into a room with machines and tools that empower people to transform waste into something useful and beautiful. Beyond plastic, MELT facilitates transdisciplinary collaboration in various circular economy projects - from cigarette skateboards to mushroom toilets. We will explore how plastic recycling works at an industrial scale by following the recycling chain to factories in Indonesia. I document MELT’s attempts at growing public waste literacy through projects that explain the scale and growth of plastic waste and hands-on recycling workshops that allow people to transform their waste into something useful. Next, we look at ways we can utilize design to reduce waste and pollution. We examine some of the key MELT principles through the projects that helped solidify them: recycling by hand with simple tools, collaborating across disciplines, prolonging the life of materials, and prototyping products that sequester waste and regenerate natural systems. We encounter the limitations of a bootstrapped organization and the solutions we employed to develop our infrastructure, increase capacity, and provide easier access to tools for the UBC community. The simple, replicable technology and decentralized nature of operation makes MELT’s approach highly transferable and adaptable to different communities around the globe, such as small islands in Indonesia.

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