Much of the appeal of making Gundam models is getting the box full of plastic frames of parts, cutting those parts out, and then piecing together a badass mecha.
But when you’re finished, there’s still a box full of discarded plastic frames! FNN reports that as of last year, when the franchise crossed its 40th anniversary, there have been 700 million Gundam models (aka Gunpla) sold. That’s a lot of models—and a bunch of plastic.
But how much? According to Kyodo News, as much as 2,000 tons of plastic frame waste is left each year from the 7,000 tons of plastic used in Gundam models.
“Gunpla is a product much loved by many people, so we launched this recycling project with a desire to create a sustainable society together with fans,” a Bandai Namco spokesperson told Kyodo News. Bandai already makes some black parts made from plastic waste, but with all the waste it’s still producing, Bandai has decided to go further.
As FNN and TV Asahi explain, Bandai has launched what it’s called “Gunpla Recycling Project” in Japan.
Here’s how it works: Customers bring their discarded plastic frames to collection mailboxes at Bandai Namco arcades. The frames are then recycled into new Gundam model parts. There are currently approximately 190 collection spots across Japan.
Bandai produces top-quality plastic, but if the company used traditional recycling to make new parts, it probably could not meet its own standards. Instead, Bandai is now working with chemical company PS Japan Corp on a chemical recycling process that breaks down the plastic into raw materials that then can be recycled into the type of colorful parts Gunpla fans expect. The plan is to eventually release fully recycled Gundam models made from these parts.
This year, the goal is to collect 10 tons of plastic waste, with the aim to collection 500 tons in the future.
Namco Bandai has not yet announced plans to set up similar collection points at its official Gunpla shops outside Japan, including China, Taiwan, and South Korea. Considering how many Gundam models are sold in these regions, expanding the recycling program would be a good idea.