Sunday, January 20, 2013

Recycle plastic at home, and make new stuff out of it

One of the hassles about managing recycling in the Islands is our isolation—you’ve got to send the recyclables long distances to be reformed.

And plastics are a problem for long-distance recycling: they’re light and they take up a lot of space. That’s a big problem when shipping costs are determined more by size than weight.
(Image: Filabot’s logo.)

A couple of inventions—one new and one newer—offer hope.

The first is the 3D printer. In one format, it uses filaments of plastic to form plastic objects. A broken part? If it can function in plastic, you can “print” it.

Here are a few examples. 3D Systems  is one leader. Stratasys  calls their system fused deposition modeling.

3D printers are now available in desktop models for a few hundred to a few thousand bucks. The problem is that you still need to import rolls of plastic filament to feed them.

Along comes Filabot, a device that lets you dump your old soda bottles and other plastics into it, and make the filament for your 3D printer.

So you can recycle your plastic at home. Save shipping two ways: you don’t have to ship your recyclable plastics out, and you don’t have to ship your 3D printing filament in. (And to the degree that your electricity to run it comes from renewables, so much the better.)

Filabot describes itself like this: “Filabot is a desktop extruding system, capable of grinding various types of plastics, to make spools of plastic filament for 3D printers. Not only is it user friendly, but it is also environmentally friendly. The Filabot can process things such as: milk jugs, soda bottles, various other types of plastics, and bad prints, to make new filament for a future print.”

So, bust your cell phone case? Pick up a couple of soda bottles off the side of the road, dump them in your Filabot to make filament, and then print a new case in your 3D printer.

There’s a nice video about the system at the bottom of this page.

Apparently Filabot is still in final testing. They got their funding through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding program, in which members of the public who believe in an idea can kick in some of the cash to develop it.

CNET’s  review of Filabot starts like this: “A common criticism of 3D printing is this: how much more plastic junk do we need in this world? Filabot, a Kickstarted device that turns household and printed plastic into printable filament, might have the answer.”

We haven’t tested the product, thus we’re not vouching for it, but as a concept, Filabot is cool. And for an isolated place like Hawai`i, where both recycling plastic and getting spare parts is a problem,  it’s way cool.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2013

1 comment:

Manawanui said...

love this....the Matter Converter of my teen scifi dreams is just a small system of components!

Also it would keep plastics out of the oceans, and from damaging the life forms in the seas, and the air!!!! YAY!

What if we had a spinoff community project for our recycling center...and have the disabled, the elderly, teen volunteeers do a large community plastics recycling service.

Or let various nonprofits have volunteers come in to do the work to raise money for their organizations. I'd rather pay to have my plastics repurposed than go to tedious fundraisers and eat food I don't want to raise money!

This is a brillliant idea. FINALLY someone is actually working out the bugs in the system