Terry Li

The Value of Waste Material: Creating Products From Recycled HDPE Plastic

In his research project, The Value of Waste Material, Terry Li explores the upcycling of the excessive amounts of high-density polyethylene produced by New Zealand’s coffee culture.

Coffee is one of the most common daily drinks in AUT, and it has become inseparable from milk as a prevalent combination. It has become common sense that people often go to cafes for leisure and work. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is most commonly used for milk packaging in New Zealand. Therefore, the amount of milk bottles that continues to be produced daily, weekly and yearly slowly becomes a significant issue.

The primary aim of this research project is to investigate design opportunities to upcycle HDPE plastic from discarded milk bottles. This research applies a product design approach to close the recycling loop and increase the plastic material’s lifespan.

Li explores the characteristics of HDPE plastics through research and experimentation to find new applications for discarded HDPE and positively impact the product industry. Discarded HDPE plastic bottles were shredded and reformed using heat and moulding production methods.

For the design project, it was also essential to create an appealing aesthetic with HDPE plastic. Both the pleasing aesthetic and easy remodelling characteristics of HDPE were advantageous and helped to turn the discarded HDPE into a low-cost but high-quality product. 


Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges susan.hedges@aut.ac.nz
Mandy Smith mandy.smith@aut.ac.nz

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© Centre for Design Research, AUT University 2021