Like a Virgin

At M4, we are on a mission to experiment with materials and manufacturing processes to create beautiful designs with recycled plastic and bio-materials.

Since its inception, “virgin plastic” has been used to produce everything from food packaging to consumer goods. But, as the environmental impact of this material becomes more apparent many companies are searching to find alternatives or ways to engage in the circular economy which aims to minimize resource usage by using sustainable materials to create long-lasting products that can be recycled.

Unfortunately, a large volume of the plastic produced is single-use, used for products such as carrier bags, drinking straws and food packaging. We must remember that plastic can never really be thrown away because it simply goes somewhere else, whether that is into oceans or our landfills. The good news is many types of plastic are easy to recycle and, if processed correctly, can offer just as many possibilities as virgin plastic.

At M4, we have rejects or waste, but we also have a process to recycle and reuse our waste within the factory. Many companies don’t have that option and don’t know what to do with the waste product they produce. Often times it gets shipped off as landfill even if the company would like to recycle in some way. We saw this as an opportunity to step in and see if we could help solve the waste problem with some of our clients using our knowledge, equipment, creativity, and drive to reduce plastic waste.

One industry that produces waste is the architecture felt industry. They cut 9mm felt sheet stock into beautiful shapes and patterns, but the unused negative shape is deemed as waste and often ends up in land fill. Felt is already a reclaimed polyethylene terephthalate (PET) made from plastic water bottles. Why not continue the circular economy model and recycle it again? The challenge is that recycling processing centers don’t deal with felt as a material. We decided to try regrinding the material and see if it could be made back into plastic pellets that then could be re-molded through the injection molding process. The short answer is yes. Many materials can be returned to an almost “raw” state that can be reused in manufacturing or a bio-plastic material. It does take an accepting ecosystem and demand to push these materials through, but we are at a place where this will become the norm and the planet will benefit from it.

At M4 we strive to keep pushing the sustainability boundaries and make an impact on saving the environment. We currently design and manufacture products from recycled plastic as well as bio-materials such as coffee, cotton, flaxseed, and soon felt.

— Kyle Swen