3D printing help tackle poverty and plastic waste


A worker washes shredded plastic waste for recycling

Sustainability Problem

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.

Technology Solution

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.


Article: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/nov/06/3d-printing-plastic-waste-poverty-development-protoprint-reflow-techfortrade


  1. Individuals and companies using 3D printers (e.g. design/architecture/manufacturing industries)
  2. Recyclebot company
  3. Environmental NGO’s
  4. Municipalities


  1. Identify governments and NGO’s that support, and are interested in implementing the technology.
  2. Partner with municipalities and  NGO’s for outreach and training in regions where there is high amount of plastic waste.
  3. Find investors for funds.
  4. Identify and partner with logistics and industrial manufacturers for scalability.

UNI – rs3750 (Riya Suthar)


3 thoughts on “3D printing help tackle poverty and plastic waste

  1. This is also a great way to improve the local economy, as the technology puts the means of production in the hands of the local community. Depending on the outcome quality, the 3D printed products can compete with products made with virgin materials. I think upcycled products are great!


    • Municipality is building low cost filament production facility to convert these plastic waste collected by pickers. This new facility will create new jobs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s