Students in Hawaii are learning about recycling through upcycling, as they collect bottle caps to be turned into fish shaped plastic tokens that wind headset cords.

At New Century Public Charter School, students were assembled over an injection molder.  The watched ground up plastic bottle caps be pressed into tokens shaped like fish.“It heats (the plastic) up and melts it,” said 17 year old Damien Lucas. “And then we can (press) them into the shapes.”

Upcycling is the process of converting unused materials into something useful of a higher quality.

The students are part of the Connections program, which has partnered with Recycle Hawaii.  The effort is called the CAPture Bottle Cap Reclamation Project. The Atherton Family Foundation has given a $10,000 grant through the Hawaii Community Foundation.

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The intent is to show students how to keep the plastic from entering the landfill or recycle stream.  They are also getting a hands on STEM lesson focused on design and engineering.

At least six grocery bags filled with bottle caps were collected this year.  They have created over 300 tokes so far.

“We were looking for a STEM project for the students that would foster recycling and resource management,” said Recycle Hawaii Executive Director Paul Buklarewicz. “So the kids collected the bottle cap tops — that’s the source — and they’re taking them and turning them into another type of product. It’s recycling but you’re adding value to the product.”

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