Is 3-D Printing the Answer to Plastic Waste?

Written by Anastasia Pantsios, and reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

You’ve probably heard a lot about 3D printing in the last few years. “Printing” is sort of a misnomer. Also referred to as “additive manufacturing,” it’s the process of creating an object from a digital file by layering filaments to form the finished product. It’s been hyped as a revolution that will make conventional manufacturing obsolete, allowing people to create the products and tools they need in their own homes.

We’ll see about that. But meanwhile, a company in Rotterdam, Netherlands called Better Future Factory, which launched last year by a team of recent graduates of Delft University of Technology, is promoting 3D printing as the solution to the widespread problem: plastic waste. Their Perpetual Plastic Project proposes that the filaments used in the process be made from recycled plastic bottles, cups and other stuff that too often ends up in landfills.

“Two things are for sure,” says Gaspard Bos, who describes himself as the “navigator” of the Perpetual Plastics Project. “One is that the production of plastics worldwide is increasing and two is that the recovery of plastics worldwide is not increasing at the same rate. Less than 10 percent of plastics gets recycled. The municipalities and local governments decide what to do with the waste and the consumer is almost powerless. We want to empower these consumers in their local communities to do something with their waste.”

Cup&Ring

That ring was made from discarded plastic cups like this one. Awesome! Photo credit: Better Future Factory

“We make an intervention in these economies, radically changing the value of their plastic waste,” he explains. “We use the power of design to change it into something people want. We designed an interactive recycling installation that allows anyone to make really cool things from their plastic trash in a really awesome way.”

The process starts with ordinary plastic cups which are washed, dried and fed into a shredder that reduces them to tiny pieces. Those pieces are fed into an extruder, heated and melted into the filaments used in the 3D printer.

Plastic

Plastic cups are shredded and turned into the filaments fed into a 3D printer to produce objects like plastic rings. Photo credit: Better Future Factory

So far, the interactive recycling installation has been used primarily to produce cute little plastic rings with a heart design. That might not make a huge dent in the plastic waste stream but it gives the Perpetual Plastic Project engineers a hook to demonstrate to observers at events the potential of the process and give them something to take away with them to remind them what can be done with stuff that gets thrown away.

“The person that made his own ring has forever changed his mind about plastic products,” says Bos. “Wherever you are in the world and you feel like your waste should be turned into awesomeness, contact us.”

Photo credit: Youtube screenshot

72 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Mary B.
Mary B2 years ago

This is one of those new things that we'll just have to learn about as we go.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

Extend this idea.

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Deborah F.
Deborah F2 years ago

interesting article. thanks.

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Jane R.
Jane R2 years ago

3-D printing is going to save our planet from a lot of plastic trash and help in the medical field also.

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Joan E.
Joan E2 years ago

3-D printing is the solution to many troubling problems -- like how to create affordable prosthetic hands -- and its ability to use discarded plastic makes it even more wonderful.

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Janis K.
Janis K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Frances Darcy
Frances Darcy2 years ago

I just cannot understant 3d printing....I must read more about it but from what i have read it could be the answer to many a problem.... but we must still reduce the need for plastic

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Arlene C.
Arlene C2 years ago

merci pour l'info.

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R Wheeler
R Wheeler2 years ago

What an excellent repurposing of used plastic! Creative people should design patterns for rings, bracelets, and necklaces to encourage people to recycle their plastic to make filament. With minimal marketing this could really catch on!

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