Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Is 3D Printing the Answer to Plastic Waste?

Business
Is 3D Printing the Answer to Plastic Waste?

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."

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 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."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

9 Ways to Cut Out Plastic

Beyond ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ to a World Without Waste

World's Largest Plastic Bottle Structure Draws Attention to Global Plastic Pollution Crisis

A dugong, also called a sea cow, swims with golden pilot jacks near Marsa Alam, Egypt, Red Sea. Alexis Rosenfeld / Getty Images

In 2010, world leaders agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's biodiversity over the next decade. By 2020, none of them had been met. Now, the question is whether the world can do any better once new targets are set during the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Kunming, China later this year.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Jan. 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

By Andrew Rosenberg

The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Melting ice forms a lake on free-floating ice jammed into the Ilulissat Icefjord during unseasonably warm weather on July 30, 2019 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

A first-of-its-kind study has examined the satellite record to see how the climate crisis is impacting all of the planet's ice.

Read More Show Less
Probiotic rich foods. bit245 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Ana Maldonado-Contreras

Takeaways

  • Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
  • Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
  • New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.

You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
Michael Mann photo inset by Joshua Yospyn.

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet is the latest must-read book by leading climate change scientist and communicator Michael Mann of Penn State University.

Read More Show Less