Invention which turns waste plastic into useful items wins top award - and could soon be hitting the shelves

Issue date: 19 July 2016

An enterprising student has invented a product which utilises the mountains of plastic bottles discarded every day – by turning them into functional household items.

Josh James has received a prestigious industry award for his product Melt, a toolkit which can be used to transform plastic into handy objects such as plant pots, coasters, cups and chopping boards.

The innovation has earned him a top prize at the New Designers Awards 2016 which could now see his product being sold by a leading online retailer.

Josh was talent spotted while exhibiting his product at the awards ceremony in London earlier this month, with trade heavyweights admiring the potential in his work. He received a £1,000 prize and was given the green light to begin selling his home recycling product via Not on the High Street.

Melt is an easy-to-use kit made up of tools including moulds, a file and a welding station, which can be used to turn HDPE plastic into objects by cutting it into pieces and melting it in the oven. Once softened into a malleable mass which acts as a base material, it can then be hand-crafted into colourful bespoke items.

Josh, 21, created the product for his final year project on the BSc (Hons) Creative Product Design course at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

Judges at the award ceremony described Josh's product as 'fantastic, fun and clever', remarking on its 'huge potential'.

Josh said: “I asked the judges whether they were sure it was me who had won. I was overwhelmed because I wasn't expecting it at all.

“I think the judges liked Melt because it is something no one has really done before and the fact it relates to everyone - the idea that you could use your waste in your house to make some nice things.”

On the inspiration behind his product, he said: “Plastic is abundant - the material is absolutely everywhere. Plastic production is quite a global issue at the moment and that's at the back of your mind as well.

“I started melting things and working out the physical possibilities of different materials. It was a shot in the dark but I have always enjoyed materials and experimenting with stuff.

“Reusing plastic isn't a new concept – people have been doing it for a long time, but I wanted to give anyone access to it. Previously, no one has had easy access to this free material. I wanted to scale it down and make it more manageable for everyday use.”

Josh said a custom-made plastic cup could be created using just five, four-pint milk bottles. As well as domestic items, he said waste plastic could also be used to create wall tiles, clock faces and even skateboards.

He said: “The kit could end up being sold – it's only in the last week or so, since the awards, that it has received more attention. I've also had lots of interest in the end products which I have created using the kit.”

The New Designers Awards, which are presented in partnership with leading brands and organisations, recognise the design world's rising stars, offering winners support as they embark upon professional careers.

Dr Andrew Cook, Josh's tutor on the project, said: “It's very rare to find any project – let alone a student one – that addresses such an important issue with such a light touch.

“It's playful, beautiful and desirable, and commercially viable to boot. Training to be a product designer can often feel like you need several different brains – you need to be empathetic to people, able to do all sorts of robust engineering, and be fluent in form and beauty.

“Josh's outstanding achievement in all of these areas is a credit to the department, and it's been a genuine privilege to work with him.”

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