Plastic bottles lying in the gutter, grocery bags tangled in branches, food wrappers scuttling across the ground on a windy day are all threatening the ecosystem. The problem with plastics is they do not easily degrade. They may break down, but only into smaller pieces. The smaller those pieces get, the more places they can go.
Deep within those piles of plastic waste lies an opportunity for the expanding 3D printing industry. Instead of melting new plastic to create these products, some companies are seizing the chance to build more sustainable, cost-effective, socially conscious ways of dealing with the looming demand for raw plastic.
Team of researchers at Michigan Technological University have been working on open-source, environmentally friendly 3D printers for years. They created the Recyclebot, which turns waste plastic into 3D printer feedstock, using the RepRap model, a self-replicating 3D printer. The used plastic is pushed into a headed pipe, melting the plastic and forming it into a long plastic spaghetti, which is then molded to the desired/designed shape.
Commercial plastic filament costs about $35/kg or more — if you make it yourself with a Recyclebot the cost drops to only ten cents per kilogram for the electricity to run it. Using recycled plastic in 3D printers can help create jobs, open new markets, and even change the cycle of poverty in some cases.
- Individuals and companies using 3D printers (e.g. design/architecture/manufacturing industries)
- Recyclebot company
- Environmental NGO’s
- Identify governments and NGO’s that support, and are interested in implementing the technology.
- Partner with municipalities and NGO’s for outreach and training in regions where there is high amount of plastic waste.
- Find investors for funds.
- Identify and partner with logistics and industrial manufacturers for scalability.
UNI – rs3750 (Riya Suthar)