Dec 11, 2015 | By Andre

The idea of recycle, reduce and reuse is something that has been encouraged to me since I was a small child. The concept always made sense and over the years urban recycling programs in my country have evolved and expanded to take on more and more items for recycle. While it does seem like things are moving in the right direction in a lot of ways, there are still troubling patterns that are of great concern.

The fact is the world throws out over 50 tons of household waste every second and that is expected to double by 2030. While this isn't great news, the reality is that the future isn't yet written in stone and there still might be a push in the right direction.

3D Printing has often been touted as the next industrial revolution; a shift in thought where the manufacture of goods is taken away from the factories and back into the agents of local control. And while the technology is still in its infancy and serious talk of the next industrial revolution is premature on any large scale, it is already worrysome that the materials currently available to manufacture with 3D printing are mostly virgin, non-recycled plastics.

This doesn’t necessarily have to remain the case however. A small New York based company called 3D Brooklyn has been experimenting with 3D printer filament produced entirely from potato chip bags. They’ve even started selling their mix of 80% recycled polypropylene / 20% recycled polyethylene online.

While the reasons behind their efforts are clear, it was the piling up of old food containers in their office that motivated them to give recycling for 3D printing a shot. After early attempts of breaking down a blend of plastics into their Filabot filament extruder, they refocused their efforts and partnered up with New Jersey based company TerraCycle.

Terracycle is a company that works with more than 100 major brands around the world to collect used packaging and products destined for landfills, and repurposes the waste into new and innovative materials and products.

The synergy between these two companies comes from the fortunate abundance of discarded potato chip bags Terraform had access to. They in-turn repurposed these bags into plastic pellets through a third party before 3D Brooklyn converted them into filament reusable in a 3D printer. Will Haude, the founder of the 3D Brooklyn has gone on to say that “we don’t want these plastics to keep being made.”

We just knew they had a lot of plastic. We volunteered to throw it in our machines to experiment with it and it worked.” Haude continued. It really was a perfect match. For now, 3D Brooklyn has used 150 pounds of these pellets to make filament and is looking to use more.

So what does this mean for the future of slowing down the ongoing waste issue in the world today? It’s tough to say really. While a 1-pound spool of their potato-chip-bag filament can make 75 to 100 bottle openers, there’s still no easy way to dispose of the plastic prints that the filament will eventually be used for. Still, It is another step in the right direction.




Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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