The “PressPoints” spread across the city are where bottles are bought off local pickers | Photo source PressPoint

PressPoints aim to provide the missing link to a viable recycling chain, where bottles will be collected and compressed at a small scale before being transported to a PET buyer.

Spotted: An interdisciplinary collaboration between students from Zurich universities and Ghanaian PET recycling startup rePATRN, has designed a concept for compressing bottles that will allow recycling PET bottles to be economically viable in Ghana.

In Ghana, recyclable materials are collected by so-called “pickers” and sold to nearby middlemen, who organise and pay for the materials to be transported to recycling facilities. However, PET bottles are not involved in this process because they take up too much space for it to be profitable — a 50 km truck ride costs as much as the middleman would receive for the PET plastic he delivers. The result is that 30,000 tons of PET bottles are discarded in Ghana each year.

An easy solution would be to compress the bottles before they are transported, but flattening each bottle by hand takes far too long. Arthur Collins, a mechanical engineering student at ETH Zurich and Donat Mehr, an industrial design student at Zurich University of the Arts came up with the idea of middleman-run “PressPoints” spread across the city where bottles are bought off local pickers.

Each PressPoint will be equipped with a sorting table where bottles are colour-sorted and compressed with a locally built roller press made from old car wheels. By enabling economical transport, this solution provides the missing link to the PET recycling chain.

With a simple belt-and-pulley gearing for manual actuation, the press is designed to be a profitable throughput at a low exertion. “Anyone can copy this concept, build the press and start their own PressPoint,” said Collins and Mehr.

The proposal has been nominated as runner-up for the 2020 James Dyson Award.