Precious Plastics at MBHS

By Rogelio Castillo Jr.

October 2, 2023

Engineering is the speciality of Mr. Wendorff, a teacher here at MBHS in the back of the J-Wing. Not only does he teach engineering, but he is also the advisor for the Precious Plastics Club. This club draws inspiration from the company it is named after, which strives to recycle and reuse plastics into everyday objects. Instead of being regarded as waste, an old water bottle could be transformed into something greater, like a cutting board.

The Precious Plastics club is based off of the global non-profit organization it is named after. Dave Hakkins, founder of the company, is an industrial engineer from the Netherlands. Wendorff tells me, “It actually was his master’s program and as a part of the program he developed small scale recycling machines in order to bring recycling to a DIY level from an industrial level…” That, essentially, is Precious Plastics; making recycling viable to hobbyists instead of corporations.

Here at MBHS, the club is in its first year and thus currently in a development phase. There’s already plenty of collected plastic to begin experimenting with. HDPE, PP, and PET is the bulk of what is in storage right now, in the form of bottles, containers, milk jugs, etc. After collecting the plastic is sorted, cleaned, shredded, then stored. After this the possibilities are practically endless in how they can be used. Currently, the plastic is melted flat into a sheet with a T-Shirt Press, although there are plans to form the plastic in other ways, such as an extruder.

The t-shirt press in the second engineering room

Wendorff, along with a few other members of the club, attended a fundraising dinner on September 28th to sell drink coasters. There were multiple designs made, from basic squares and circles, to other shapes such as hearts. They sold lots of product, earning over $200. The club plans to double-down into research and development soon. They hope to make their systems as efficient as possible before tackling more advanced projects, such as door stops and tables.

The system that is being used to make coasters is not optimal. Take for example the washing system. Plastic is currently being scrubbed and cleaned manually. Plans for improvement are in progress though. “We’re currently working on building an automated washing system that can include a faster and easier way to wash the plastic,” Wendorff tells me. This really is only the beginning; Precious Plastics has plenty of potential to grow bigger and bigger as the year goes on. They aim to keep waste out of landfills while also making a profit. Wendorff tells me “We haven’t really opened up to a large audience but soon I’d like to begin collecting from local businesses, students, parents…” 

The end products sold at the fundraising dinner, including earrings and coasters.

Even after all this recycling, the club is nothing without a passionate community. The members of Precious Plastics are people who volunteer their time for a greater cause. Wendorff tells me, “These are students that want to get involved and want to do something actionable… this is a way students can do something physically and see results.” Noah Rienks is the Club President, Maceo Addis-Jackson is Vice President, Megan Merson is Secretary, and Erika Siegmund is Treasurer. Of course there are also many other members of the club that contribute.

In short, Mr. Wendorff along with all members involved have created the start to an inspiring club here at Morro Bay High School. They have been hard at work and have lots to try. The Precious Plastics Club currently meets every Wednesday in the Engineering room (Back of the J-Wing) at lunch. If Wednesday doesn’t work for you, most days at lunch students come in to work on cleaning, sorting, or do other things. Feel free to stop by to check it out; being in engineering class isn’t a requirement!  

The collection baskets and the frame hand-welded by Noah Rienks.