How Eco-Friendly are Gundam Models? Can Gunpla models be Recycled?

If you are greatly concerned about the state of our environment, such as fossil fuels, global warming, and greenhouse gas, you might ask when starting to collect and build Gundam models if they are eco-friendly. I’ve also been wondering about this question. Thus, I decided to do my research and share what I’ve learned.

Generally speaking, Gundam Models are not eco-friendly as they are made with plastics which are hard to recycle fully. However, Bandai has been making some efforts to make their models eco-friendly such as releasing their Ecopla line, which uses recycled plastics. Furthermore, they are also trying to stay away from plastics by using resin in their high-end models.

This blog post will discuss the eco-friendliness of Gundam models. Are they eco-friendly? Are they easily recycled? Is Bandai doing things to make their products eco-friendly? We will discuss these topics, plus an introduction to the plastics used by Bandai on their models.

Can Gunpla Models be recycled? Is it Eco-friendly?

Is Gunpla eco-friendly?

The Diecast Model Welcome Video
The Diecast Model Welcome Video

Gunpla models aren’t eco-friendly since they are made with plastics. However, the plastics used in Gundam models can easily be recycled. Thus, Bandai has started to release models made from recycled plastics called the Ecopla line. Furthermore, advances in technology allowed recycling plastics to be more efficient. Thus, Gundam models can become eco-friendly in the future.

Sadly, like other plastic model kits, Gunpla isn’t generally eco-friendly, and it uses a lot of plastics to build a model.

Furthermore, the sprues used in the kits are thrown away by users, turning to waste on dumpsites.

This is a big problem since plastics are a big issue harming our environment.

However, Bandai has been making efforts to make its models eco-friendly.

One of which is using recycled plastics to make Gundam models. Right now, we can donate or give our used sprues and other plastic parts, and Bandai will produce models made out of them.

Bandai is doing its part in making its models eco-friendly, especially when it released the Ecopla line, which uses recycled plastics on its models.

You will know that the model is in the Ecopla line if its logo is in the box.

Here is the logo you need to check to look for Ecopla Gundam Models.

Bandai Ecopla Logo
Bandai Ecopla Logo: Courtesy of Bandai Hobby Site

Furthermore, Bandai’s efforts to make their models eco-friendly don’t stop with recycled plastics. They are also trying to produce models made with more eco-friendly materials than plastics.

One of which is their models that are made with metals. They tried this approach but failed since metals are hard to detail. Thus, it didn’t get popular with Gundam modelers.

Metal Gundam models would only reach MG grade since it is too hard to make them very detailed. Thus, this approach failed.

If this succeeds, these metals can quickly be melted and turned into other materials like diecast metals since 90-95% of diecast metals are recycled into other products.

Remember the 90-95% recycled since we will return to that later.

However, this failure didn’t stop Bandai in their efforts to make these models eco-friendly. Recently, they tried the resin casting technique on their models, which is becoming a success.

Resin models aren’t only more detailed than plastics. They are also more eco-friendly.

Bandai called these Gundam Models the B-club. The B-club used resin as its material for manufacturing.

You might be wondering why resin would be more eco-friendly than plastics?

Resin is more eco-friendly than plastics since Resin materials come either from plants or are synthesized in labs. On the other hand, plastics are made with oil and natural gas.

This means plastics use oil which adds carbon to our atmosphere. On the other hand, Resin is more carbon neutral and doesn’t add carbon to our air.

As you can see, while Gundam models aren’t eco-friendly, Bandai has been doing its job in making its models eco-friendly in the future.

However, you might ask, what makes Gundam not eco-friendly? What if we recycle these models? Wouldn’t that make it eco-friendly? Let’s talk about that in the next section.

What type of plastic is Gunpla?

Gunpla models are made with polypropylene, polystyrene, and ABS plastics. These plastics can be recycled and turned into numerous products such as plastic sheets, clothing, kitchenware, tiles, furniture, or new Gunpla models.

As you can see, Gunpla models are made with three types of plastics. First, let’s have a brief introduction to all these plastics.

1. Polypropylene Plastics

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic that is formed by combining propylene monomers.

Thermoplastics mean that they are quickly melted and turned mold into different shapes.

Polypropylene is slippery in nature, and it is one of the most commonly used plastics in the world.

The great thing is polypropylene plastics can be recycled into multiple products such as clothing, kitchenware, and industrial parts.

2. Polystyrene Plastics

Polystyrene is a plastic made from different styrene monomers.

Polystyrene is a clear plastic often used in packaging materials and equipment.

As bonus information, Styrofoam is an expanded form of Polystyrene.

The excellent news is that polystyrene can also be recycled and turned into furniture, tiles, hangers, containers, and frames.

3. ABS Plastics

ABS plastics are hard in nature and are often used on products that need to be durable. In addition, these plastics are often resistant to physical and chemical impacts.

They are also very easy to mold and are perfect for models.

How hard are ABS plastics? Well, if you see a Lego, those are made with ABS plastics.

If you’ve experienced stepping on lego and felt the pain in your foot, you would understand how hard ABS plastics are.

These plastics are also used in cars as they are more durable than other types of plastics.

ABS plastics are also thermoplastics which means they melt and can be reused.

ABS plastics can be recycled into plastic sheets, car parts, shower trays, and pipes.

Lastly, ABS plastics are inexpensive, costing around $1.50 per pound, so manufacturers love using this plastic in their products.

If you notice the pattern, we can see that all these plastics are recyclable. So then, why are Gunpla models not eco-friendly, and why is Bandai trying to use other materials to make their products eco-friendly? That’s the topic in the next section.

Can Gunpla be recycled?

Gunpla models can be recycled since their materials are all made of recyclable plastics. However, recycling these plastics is inefficient since only 10% of plastics are fully recycled. This is also why Gunpla models are not eco-friendly.

If you can remember, I said that 90-95% of diecast metals are recyclable. The problem is that only 10% of plastics can be recycled.

But why 10%? The 10% doesn’t mean that 90% of the plastics are left on our dumpsters or the ocean. The truth is, we can’t fully recycle plastics.

If you’ve tried burning plastics, you will notice a distinct smell from melting them. You will also see that the plastic might evaporate after some time.

That’s the problem. Since plastics are made with oil and natural gas, they are combustible.

When we melt plastics, we can only melt 10% of the plastics, and about 90% of them will be combusted, which turns into carbon dioxide.

It’s not that we are throwing them away. These plastics are just burned like fossil fuels.

That’s why recycling plastics is inefficient. Our technology doesn’t allow us to recycle 100% of plastics. That’s why we need a plastic alternative to make things more eco-friendly.

In fact, the only way to fully recycle plastics without combusting more carbon dioxide into the air is not to melt them. Instead, to assemble them into other products.

That’s what Bandai did in 2020 when it made the special Lune Sea version Zaku II model entirely made from plastic sprues. This shows that Bandai is trying this approach to make gunpla models more eco-friendly.

As you can see, while we can recycle the plastics used in Gundam models, our current method of recycling plastics is inefficient as these plastics can combust and be converted to carbon dioxide, which adds more greenhouse gas to our environment.

With all of these, let’s conclude this post with the things we can do to make the Hobby more eco-friendly.

Conclusion

While we can see that Gunpla models aren’t eco-friendly, Bandai has been doing its best to make its models friendly to our environment.

Our technology could also make recycled plastics more efficient in the future.

We can also do our part in making these models more eco-friendly.

One is to reuse the sprues, which are usually thrown in the dumpster.

There are many ways to do it, such as cutting these sprues and turning them into accessories or reusing them to test the paint you’re going to use on your models.

Another thing you can do is to get the models from the B-club or the ecopla line, which uses more eco-friendly materials in their models.

Basically, the things you need to do is to reduce plastic consumption, reuse plastics, and recycle them. That way, you can reduce your impact on the environment.

What’s next? Did you know that there are more than 2,300 Gundam Models, each with different looks, colors, and sizes? I explored how many Gundam models are available and how many have been sold since its beginning in another post. If you are interested, check it out here: How many Gunpla models are out there?

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