Desktop Plastic Recycling Device Designed For 3D Printing

center-americanprogressEditor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of Center for American Progress/Think Progress. Author credit goes to Jeff Spross.

Over the last year or two 3D printing has enjoyed a boom of sorts, as the technology has decreased to a size and price that’s at least somewhat feasible for the average consumer or hobbyist. At the same time the cost of plastic filament — the raw material 3D printers heat and then deposit to fabricate objects — has kept use of the technology beyond the reach of most individuals.

But now there’s a new desktop system that not only has the potential to solve the cost-of-filament problem, but to also make 3D printing an ally in efforts to cut down on the average household’s plastic waste.

image via Whitney Trudo

image via Whitney Trudo

The Filabot was developed by an American college student, Tyler McNaney, who raised raised over three times his initial $10,000 goal with a Kickstarter campaign to get the project off the ground. Aficionados were paying $350 for the first-run version fo the device, which can transform most forms of household plastic waste into filament, as well as recycle failed 3D printing projects for another go-round. Treehugger has the details:

The Filabot can turn most types of plastic into filament, including HDPE, LDPE, PET, ABS, PLA and NYLON-101. That means the machine can turn most plastic waste you might have around your house into a building material. Things like milk jugs, soda or water bottles, trays, plastic wraps, water pipes, luggage, packaging, biodegradable plastics and even Legos can become something new.

This also means that 3D printed projects gone wrong can also be fed into the Filabot to be made again, giving more room for trial and error without the fear of creating lots of plastic waste.

This system lets us imagine a future where we’re not only 3D printing replacements or repair parts for our things instead of throwing them away, but using waste plastic to in the process.

Filabot had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year where supporters paid $350 to get a first run version of these machines and the team is slowly working out kinks to get them out to public, though no official price has been released yet.

On the other side of the equation — moving 3D printers themselves into the realm of everyday devices Americans keep in their homes — MakerBot recently unveiled a 3D printer for the consumer market. Then Cubify did them one better, releasing a consumer printer that’s smaller, more aesthetic, and, arguably most important, cheaper.

To give a few examples of the scale of plastic waste problem: Only 10 percent of the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year is recycled. In the United States specifically, 31 million tons were produced in 2010, and only eight percent was recycled. 51 billion plastic bottles are used globally every year, while only one in five are recycled. And plastic bags and cigarettes make up 80 percent of marine litter, and plastic bag litter has become such a huge problem that country’s around the world are taxing or outright banning them.

In some ways, the problem may actually be worse in the developed world. For instance, while India’s official government does a poor job dealing with trash, an informal trash economy has sprung up that successfully recycles 56 to 70 percent of the country’s recyclable material. In Europe and the United States, the amount is closer to 30 percent.

The Center for American Progress is an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action. Building on the achievements of progressive pioneers such as Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, our work addresses 21st-century challenges such as energy, national security, economic growth and opportunity, immigration, education, and health care. We develop new policy ideas, critique the policy that stems from conservative values, challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter, and shape the national debate.