Oct 1, 2015 | By Benedict

A design student from Victoria University of Wellington has had his innovative Master’s thesis transformed into a community pilot project and announced as a double finalist in a nationwide innovation competition. Lionel Taito-Matamua’s thesis project, entitled Renewing Materials: 3D Printing and Distributed Recycling Disrupting Samoa’s Plastic Waste Stream, is a study into how 3D printing technology can create tools out of recycled plastic, which can in turn be used to combat the growing amount of plastic waste filling up landfills and waterways in Samoa.

Of the ten finalists in the ‘Innovation in Sustainability and Cleantech’ category of the New Zealand Innovators Awards, Taito-Matamua’s project is the only entry from Wellington, the nation’s capital city. The 23-year-old design student is also a finalist for the ‘Young New Zealand Innovator’ award, following his additive manufacturing research. Taito-Matamua admitted to being “pretty excited” following his double nomination. “Being named alongside larger companies, groups and successful individuals makes the whole year of thesis research worth it”.

The project is already being transformed from research into action. Next month, Taito-Matamua will launch the pilot project at Lower Hutt’s Taita College by teaching Year 9 and 10 students how to use 3D modelling software, hoping they will embrace 3D printing and figure out further ways by which the technology can improve recycling.

Taito-Matamua’s ultimate goal is to introduce the project in Samoa, where he hopes locals will use the 3D printing technology to help tackle the rising problem of plastic waste.

“We don’t have any systems in Samoa to recycle plastic. It all ends up in landfills, the oceans or it’s burnt. Throughout my thesis, my idea was to use 3D printing in a way that could benefit the local community or other isolated areas that don’t have recycling systems in place. Not necessarily coming up with whole solutions, but to help reduce the problem.”

The young award nominee has described some of the creative solutions thought up so far. These include making souvenirs out of tourists’ discarded water bottles, and making models of marine mammals to be used as classroom resources to educate students about the effects of marine pollution. Why not 3D print a fleet of recycling bins from waste plastic to get things going?

Taito-Matamua and his project are also in the running for the People’s Choice Award. The public can vote for their favourite finalist on the New Zealand Innovators Awards website. The first round of voting has closed, and the award winners will be announced in Auckland on Wednesday 21 October.

Taito-Matamua discussed his research during a public talk at National Library of New Zealand on Wednesday 16 September. The introduction to his thesis abstract, supervised by Professor Simon Fraser and Jeongbin Ok, reads:

This research addresses the serious issue of plastic waste in the Pacific. Using Samoa as a case study, we hypothesise that distributed recycling combined with 3D printing offers an opportunity to repurpose and add new value to this difficult waste stream. It also offers potential to engage diverse local communities in Samoa by combining notions of participatory design, makerspaces and ‘wikis’ of parts with traditional Samoan social concepts such as ‘Fa’a Samoa’, or ‘the Samoan way’ and sense of community.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications





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