Nov 21, 2015 | By Tess

It is becoming more and more difficult to argue against the fact that 3D printing technologies and practices are leading a manufacturing revolution. With individuals, start-ups, and well-established companies all making use of additive manufacturing techniques to create a wide range of items and products, the notion of “creators” replacing “consumers” is really gaining sway. What we sometimes forget, however, is that even in 3D printing, there is a level of consumption that is necessary: that of plastic filament.

That being said, there has been a significant movement within the 3D printing community to provide makers with more sustainable options for their filament. For instance, Dutch based company Better Future Factory have developed Refil, a plastic filament made entirely from recycled plastics. Recently as well, an Australian based initiative has been drawing attention to the plastic consumption of the 3D printing industry by showing how it contributes to the deterioration of ocean reefs.

The project, called Full Circle Textiles, has as its aim the education and promotion of sustainable alternatives within 3D printing. In addition, it consists of a 3D printed shopping bag made entirely from high quality recycled plastic filament. Camila Bracey, the designer behind the project hopes that the bag itself, which can be purchased through the website, or 3D printed at home, will serve as a reminder of sustainable, eco-friendly living.

The focus of the project is not only how much plastic the 3D printing industry uses – she reports that currently the industry uses approximately 30 million pounds of plastic material a year, and that it is estimated to grow to 250 million pounds a year by 2020 – but how the plastic industry effects our environments, specifically our oceans’ coral reefs.

On Full Circle Textiles’ website, it is explained that this year nearly 40% of the world’s coral reefs will be drastically affected by what is called a Global Coral Bleaching and that approximately 12,000 square kilometres of reefs are expected to die. The dramatic phenomenon is caused by the rise in ocean temperatures, which is itself caused by our CO2 emissions.

3D printing plays into the equation by being dependent on plastic filaments. The manufacturing of virgin plastic, which is made from petroleum, is an extremely CO2 heavy process, and in that way contributes to the depletion of our natural environments, including the coral reefs.

Part of the solution, as Full Circle Textiles emphasizes, is getting makers to commit to using fully recycled plastic filaments. The process of cleaning, grinding, and melting the recycled plastics into new filament uses only 1/3 of the CO2 emissions that are necessary for creating virgin plastic, not to mention that reusing plastic on land inevitably means that less plastic will find its way into the ocean as pollution.

Bracey states, “I aim for this project to spark conversation about this amazing technology and inspire people to use it in a way that benefits our entire planet, as well as reminding consumers that every one of their choices has an impact on our plant so [choose] right by our oceans, because without them we have no future.”

As mentioned, the Full Circle Plastic Bag designed by Bracey and additively manufactured by Sydney, Australia based 3D printing service Brainchild 3D Printing, is meant to remind consumers about the impact of their choices and to hopefully encourage them to make the most ecological decisions. Luckily, there are a number of options to choose from as consumers and makers, so selecting a recycled filament over a non-recycled one should be an increasingly easy decision to make.




Posted in 3D Printing Application



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