Second Melt Solutions

We turn beach plastic and other single use plastic items into usable art that will never be thrown away.

Photo of Justin Anderson
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Please confirm you meet the following criteria

  • We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
  • We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
  • We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
  • We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • We have been working on this project for at least three months
  • We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
  • We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Website or social media url(s) (optional):,

Date You Started Your Project


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Recycling is broken. Some items have an established recycling industry like jugs and bottles, but many single use items, such as straws, pen caps, or take out lids, do not. It is important that we solve this problem because plastic is made of unsustainable fossil fuels, yet only a small percentage of it ever gets recycled and much heads straight for the ocean.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I am working with a team of like-minded young people to create a small recycling workspace that recycles ocean plastic and single use plastic items like coffee lids, plastic cups, and straws into usable art. Pieces made so far include colorful, blank phonograph records for sound recording and drink coasters. It is important that everything we make be more likely to be donated to a thrift store than thrown away. These items serve to raise awareness of the plastic problem, and prove that nothing is unrecyclable.

3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.

I have used my knowledge of basic chemistry to sort unidentifiable fragments of plastic found on beaches. I have a beaker of an ethanol and water solution with some known plastic flakes in it that allows me to sort plastic into different types by density. Many of my coasters have been made with a custom aluminum mold that I designed using CAD software. I am also considering experimenting with creating 3D printer filament using recycled plastic.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I have always cleaned up litter, and a few years ago while on vacation in Hawaii I came upon a heavily polluted beach on the island of Kauai. I picked up as many plastic pieces as I could find, and right there on the spot made the decision that instead of throwing it away, I would bring the plastic home and make something permanent out of it. I did some research and learned that by melting the plastic down, I could mold it into something else. The first thing I made was a drink coaster using a tuna can as a mold. It came out great. I realized I was on to something, and made five coasters to put on display for my campus’ Make Art Not Waste exhibition. Someone suggested I should sell them. Shortly afterward, I started up my company, 2nd Melt Solutions, as well as Precious Plastic MN. As of now, I am figuring out ways to develop more products and ways to recycle plastic more efficiently.

5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

The key activities I have carried out to bring my project to life are: starting up a business selling recycled plastic drink coasters to raise awareness about recycling; developing additional products, such as recycled plastic records, door pullers, and soap dishes; partnering with a local grocery store for plastic collection; purchasing equipment to aid in shredding plastic; applying for multiple grants to seek funding for the project; and researching possible locations for a public workspace.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Precious Plastic is a community of DIY plastic recycling enthusiasts that also offers open source plans for recycling machines. I am affiliated with them, but what sets 2nd Melt apart from many other members is that everything I make tells a story. Each item has full documentation of the plastic that went into it and where it was found. I intend to keep this up even as I scale up production. I feel that just shredding plastic and putting it in a large pool of flakes of a certain color removes some of the impact of knowing that you are indeed holding something that was made from everyday trash.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.

So far I have diverted about 10 pounds of plastic from the waste stream and made it into coasters. I have sold 28 coasters, and engaged the public in two raffles that gave away one coaster each. The Second Melt Solutions Instagram account has 42 followers including members of the general public and other Precious Plastic affiliated workspaces that are interested in what I'm doing. I have a website established:

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

I want to purchase high quality shredding and molding machines to assist with recycling, and eventually want to establish a workspace where I do plastic collection and recycling all on the same site. I envision it also having a public makerspace that can educate the public and allow people to tinker. Currently, I am researching possible locations with members of the Precious Plastic MN team.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

A couple of local high school students found my website and offered to help me. They too are recycling plastic at home. I have explained my methods to them and have learned a lot from them too.

11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

I'm hoping to get the chance to connect with other changemaker winners, especially those who are working on environmental projects too. I always welcome collaboration, as the more people involved in a project the better. It would be great to be able to share resources, ideas, contacts and methodology.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

To engage potential partners and supporters, I like to show off examples of my recycled plastic products, explain how I made them and what I made them out of. I feel like seeing a physical useable product made from trash goes a long way towards piquing interest and curiosity around the project. I have also shared my story with the news media. I have been interviewed twice. MN Sun Sailor, June 13, 2020 ( Mac Weekly, July 14, 2020 (

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors

14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.

  • Program Design

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Search engine
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Attachments (7)


"Trash to Treasure" was Justin Anderson's first public art display showing off upcycled plastic coasters. This photo was taken during the Spring semester of 2020 at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Styro-Phones are plastic discs Justin Anderson makes out of upcycled receipt spools. Here is one playing on a turntable.


"Trash to Treasure" was Justin Anderson's first public art display showing off upcycled plastic coasters. This photo was taken during the Spring semester of 2020 at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Beach plastic collected from along the shoreline of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota. Here it is being poured out of a bucket after being washed.

Screen Shot 2021-01-09 at 7.09.52 PM.jpeg

Justin Anderson melting down pieces of plastic recovered from the Macalester College campus and turning them into drink coasters.


Justin Anderson collecting plastic along the shore of Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota.


Justin Anderson sitting at the kitchen table with a collection of plastic drink coasters made out of single use plastic recovered from the environment.

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1 comment

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Photo of Hector Moyeton

Such a great idea, to tell the story of an item based on the plastic that you have collected. I am sure this also goes a long way into educating people as to the problem of ocean plastic. I see also that you have met with other people who are working on the same issue and even shared methods. I wonder if there's something you can collaborate on to multiply the work that you're all doing.