An easy way to upcycle wood cut-offs is to laminate them into cutting boards, which is why they're common at your local crafts fair. But UK-based siblings and content creators Matt and Jonny, a/k/a Brothers Make, decided to make an upcycled cutting board out of a more pernicious material: Used plastic. Specifically, "a load of milk bottle tops and other recycled plastic we have been collecting," they write.
To keep things food-safe, they opted for HDPE, and prepared researched statements to ward off safety trolls:
HDPE is a food-grade plastic, hence why it is used for milk bottles and packaging for other edible goods. This is most likely sourced from raw (or 'virgin') polymer which means that it has not gone through a recycling process. This issue with recycling plastic is that there are multiple avenues for the plastic to become contaminated. The 3 main ones being:
1) Remains from the previous content it was holding
2) Labels/residue left on the plastic itself
3) Potential 'burning' of the plastic, which introduces toxins (both as fumes and within the resulting plastic product itself)
We are very meticulous when it comes to the cleaning of our plastic. All plastic that we receive is hand-sorted to ensure it is indeed HDPE and that there are no non-plastic contaminants left on the plastic. We run the plastic through at least 3 sorting and cleaning cycles before we ever introduce it to heat. This covers (1) and (2).
HDPE's burning point is anything over 180 degrees Celsius. We have had enough experience with melting this plastic to know when it has got too hot. We keep our over/grill at around 140-160 degrees, which never introduces any fumes or burning to any of the plastic. This covers (3).
In any case, here's their process, start to finish:
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I'm impressed with their entire process, but particularly with the amount of patience required for the finishing steps, after the bulk of the shaping was done. And while there are limits to what this cutting board should be used for—"the low melting temperature of HDPE means that this should not be used for anything hot, nor should it be used as a surface to rest hot saucepans on"—and it can't be run through the dishwasher, it's a perfectly serviceable cutting board. And looks pretty cool too!
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It will be fun to do but his is hardly a solution to anything, is it? The recycling advantage is dwarfed by the energy waste.
You want microplastics in everything you chop, every time you leave even the tiniest cut mark? Because this is how you infuse your gut with microplastics. Not to mention the credit card I thought I was saving the environment from by using it to scrape my cast iron - now I'm just grinding it up into toxic dust, instead of waiting for that to happen in a million years when a river runs through the dump.