What happens to all of those plastic bottles that people recycle? This question is at the heart of SCH junior Caroline Reitmeyer’s venture: PlasTEKK. She has created an alternative for recycled plastic bottles that removes them from the waste stream and ocean floor and repurposes them for a new generation of innovation. Her vision, product, and performance recently won her first place at “Rising Starters,” a pitch competition sponsored by Drexel University’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, along with $2,500 in prize money.
The inspiration for Caroline’s project came during a summer service project in Hawaii where she was appalled by the number of plastic bottles routinely swept ashore and onto beaches. Under the auspices of the school’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) and its 10th grade Capstone program, she was able to work with mentors from the robotics and engineering department to design and fabricate a device that heats plastic and extrudes it as a thread. This thread—appropriately coined “Philament”—is used by 3D-printers to fabricate models and prototypes in design labs throughout the world. As her mission boldly states: Caroline is helping to fuel next generation innovators with yesterday’s materials.
Ed Glassman, Executive Director of the CEL said, “Caroline has shown great resilience and resourcefulness as she has worked to perfect her 3D printer filament recycling machine. She has diligently worked on this idea over the course of multiple years. It is more than just an exercise for a class, or a plan of action, it is actually in operation.”
Caroline plans to use the Drexel prize money to industrialize the process to recycle the plastic she collects and will be donating some to the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.