Planting ideas: Cape Breton community workshop turning plastic bottle caps into flower pots

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SYDNEY – A local machinist and toolmaker hopes the flowerpots he makes from bottle caps will inspire ideas for reusing plastic that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Dave Murphy recently used the Nova Scotia Power Makerspace workshop to create the prototype. He started with a computer-controlled lathe to build a metal mold, then a special shredder to grind the caps into small flakes, which he heated and pushed through an extruder before injecting the resin into the mold.

Once cooled, you have a small flower pot similar to those you see at big box stores and garden centers.

“Once we’re done, we can show people, here are bottle caps and here’s what we can turn them into. Now what do you want to do?” explained Murphy, an automated production expert who was formerly part of a group of makerspace members who used the caps to create plastic lumber from bottle caps. .

Matt Swan, executive director of the Nova Scotia Power Makerspace, holds a race car built using their computer-controlled router, which mills, drills and cuts wood and other materials. Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post – Christopher Connors

RECYCLING EQUIPMENT

Matt Swan is executive director of the makerspace. He said the nearly 6,000 square foot space has just about all the tools, equipment and expertise needed to help budding entrepreneurs and students design and manufacture innovative products.

He asked Murphy to use the recycling equipment to show the other members the possibilities.

“Every piece of equipment in the house is about people coming in and using what they don’t have access to. So if it’s a lathe, if it’s a mill, if it’s a welder, they come in and they use that equipment,” Swan said.

“But when it comes to recycling equipment, people don’t really know what to do with it, so Dave is really helping us here to create a mold to show people, ‘Here are bottle caps and here is a flower pot. What do you want to do with recycled bottle caps?” And it will spur creativity towards what else can be done to divert bottle caps from landfills.”

Ron Dithurbride, who recently moved from Alberta to Cape Breton, used some of the tools and carpentry equipment from the makerspace to build a jewelry box for his daughter.  Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post - Christopher Connors
Ron Dithurbride, who recently moved from Alberta to Cape Breton, used some of the tools and carpentry equipment from the makerspace to build a jewelry box for his daughter. Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post – Christopher Connors

JEWELRY BOX

Murphy wasn’t the only person busy working on unique projects during a weekday tour of the facility, located at the New Dawn Center for Social Innovation on Nepean Street in the former Holy Angels gymnasium.

Ron Dithurbride recently moved from Alberta to Cape Breton, saying, “I came to help my dad build a shed and I never left.

He used some of the carpentry tools and equipment to build a jewelry box for his daughter. It features all the homemade wooden hinges, and that day he was able to use the water jet cutter to cut the mirror that will line the lid, and a laser engraver to engrave his name on it and frost the glass.

“It’ll be the only thing here that isn’t done by hand, but that’s okay,” he said, adding that the process would otherwise take several days.

Dithurbride said the makerspace offers endless possibilities.

“If you think about it, you can do it – and there’s always someone here to help you,” he said. “If you add everyone up, you’re talking about hundreds of years of experience.”

Makerspace assistant technician Abin Anil also used the waterjet and laser cutters to make labels for lobster traps. He started with a wooden prototype which he now manufactures in metal.

It’s a project he couldn’t have imagined taking part in before moving to Cape Breton from Kerala in southern India.

“Never. I had never even seen a lobster before coming to Canada,” he said.

Makerspace Assistant Technician Abin Anil never imagined making lobster labels when he moved from India to Cape Breton.  “I had never even seen lobster before coming to Canada,” he says.  Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post - Christopher Connors
Makerspace Assistant Technician Abin Anil never imagined making lobster labels when he moved from India to Cape Breton. “I had never even seen lobster before coming to Canada,” he says. Chris Connors/Cape Breton Post – Christopher Connors

NEW MANAGEMENT

The makerspace had been run by Innovacorp since it first opened in April 2019, but this fall Navigate Startup House took over operations.

Navigate President Donnie Snow said the makerspace plays a “very fundamental role” in fostering new businesses.

“You may have an idea, but you don’t have the money to buy a trick, you don’t have the money to go see someone who has a trick — all you have is a concept . What are you gonna do with that? You can get into the maker space and you can develop your concept and prototype it quickly,” he said. “If you were to fire him, it could take you a year; moreover, do you have the money to do it?

“Then Navigate has mentorship programs with people in the industry who work with you to make it a business. Navigate will help you on the business side, and makerspace will help you prototype, build, and design it. The two therefore go hand in hand. It’s a great combination.

Chris Connors is a multimedia reporter at the Cape Breton Post

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