People are increasingly made of plastic. The material from our discarded water bottles gets ground up into microparticles, which end up everywhere in the environment. Our oceans alone have an estimated 150 million tons of plastic in them. We then nosh on 50,000 of these pieces of plastic a year, which have been discovered taking up residence in our livers, kidneys, and lungs. It’s sickening to consider, and we still don’t understand the long-term health ramifications.
But what if our body could actually recycle plastic, breaking it down to keep this waste out of our landfills and oceans?
That’s a question being asked by Matthew Harkness, a PhD candidate in philosophy, art, design, and media at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, with his Biorecycling Machine. The machine is based on an open-source blueprint of a 3D-printed tattoo machine that he downloaded from GitHub. Then he added some unique ink: a mixture of saline and finely ground plastic. The premise is that, after receiving a plastic-ink tattoo, your body becomes the recycling machine, breaking down the plastic over the course of six months into harmless byproducts that your body produces all the time (specifically, lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and water).