Sep 15, 2015 | By Kira

Ultimaker and Better Future Factory (BFF) have worked together to sponsor the Perpetual Plastic Project, an interactive recycling installation where plastic waste is recycled on-the-spot into unique 3D printed products and a new brand of high quality 3D printing filament known as ReFil. The Earth-friendly and empowering project is part of BFF’s ongoing effort to find creative, realistic and sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Think about how much contact you have in your day-to-day life with plastic products: your phone case, sunglasses, water and soda pop bottles, the take-out container for your lunch, and even bigger items, like your car dashboard, just to name a few. Now think about how many of these items will ever be recycled. While the production of plastics worldwide is increasing at an exponential rate, statistics tell us that only 10-12% of this plastic is being recycled, resulting in colossal amounts of non-biodegradable waste littering our planet, and the consistent depletion of Earth’s non-renewable resources.

While trying to counteract our harmful, waste-producing practices while also utilizing modern technology to create new and unique products, Jonas Martens and five fellow engineers launched the Perpetual Plastic Project. The interactive installation, which initially took place after a large outdoor festival in the Netherlands, effectively collects participants’ plastic waste (such as water bottles and festival cups) and turns it into a personalized, 3D printed ring. 

“We really want to make a different in the world, not just by talking about what is wrong with it, but by showing how things can be done differently by working with existing systems,” said Martens. “We believe in the local production of useful products. If you make new plastics, you usually need new raw materials like oil, and history has taught us on many occasions what the effects are." 

While most of us have gotten used to throwing away our plastics after use, considering them mere trash, the fact is that the material quality and value of the plastic is just as good as it was before usage. “We want to empower these consumers in their local communities to do something with their waste…dramatically changing the value of their plastic waste,” said another co-founder, Jaspard.

The recycling process is much simpler than you would think, considering this is a global epidemic that many of us are so reluctant to acknowledge. First, the plastic is cleaned, dried, shredded into tiny pieces, and then melted at high temperatures. If the plastic will be used right away, it is fed into a 3D printer and used to make unique objects, such as 3D printed rings. In the case of making their fully recycled filament, ReFil, the pieces of melted PET bottles and car dashboards are extruded into a clean string of 1.75 or 2.85 mm filament, which is then wound onto biodegradable cardboard spools and sold to the public, perpetuating a circular economy. The team is careful to use only recycle streams that are safe and consistent, meaning that ReFil has the same price and quality as ordinary filament, but with a much better impact on the environment.

Founded in 2012, the Perpetual Plastics Project received initial sponsorship from leading 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker in the form of one of their open system design 3D printers. This was an ideal machine for the engineers, since it allowed them to work with materials of any type to 3D print their designs with high quality results and minimal waste. The Perpetual Plastics Project also falls under the wings of the Better Future Factory, a multi-disciplinary design, environmental and engineering company dedicated to developing sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.

Martens and his team have now showcased their project at over 40 events across Europe and have recently won Best Product and Environmental Education at the Mini MakerFaire in Trieste, Italy, and Best Innovation in Materials for 3D printing at IDTechEx 2015. Ultimaker has said that they will continue to work closely with the project, and we certainly hope to see more well executed, eco-conscious undertakings such as this one.

While 3D printing has already shown it is capable of improving lives, this potential will be meaningless if all it’s doing is contributing to the further destruction of our planet through pollution. The Perpetual Plastics Project invites us to see firsthand that far from being worthless disposable material, plastic waste can easily be transformed into meaningful, Earth-friendly objects.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Dirty Steve wrote at 9/15/2015 11:48:30 PM:

Notice how no one addresses contaminates with plastic recycling. I've recycled waste prints, impossible to eliminate contaminates that will clog even a 0.5mm nozzle.

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