Plastic is a wicked problem! We are finding bits of it everywhere!
Plastic was a great invention. It has become an integral part of our convenience lifestyle, so we can’t seem to do without it. But it is filling our landfills and oceans, and we even find it in our food and water!
It was exciting when plastic soda bottles came out because they were light and did not break. Since then, however, plastic has gone in unanticipated directions.
So what can we do now?
I’m Marla, the Green Home Coach! Today I am super excited to have my son, Trent, joining me on the podcast to explain how he uses recycled plastic to make filament for 3-D printing and talk about recycling different types of plastic.
Trent is the co-founder of a St. Louis-based company called Printerior Designs. They focus on creating circular solutions for the industry by turning recycled plastics into 3-D printing filaments that can get used for creating new objects. They have developed three types of materials that have impacted the waste created in the industry, and they hope to continue reducing the enormous amount of waste the industry creates.
Plastic lasts for a long time. It does not deteriorate, and it does not biodegrade. We find it everywhere because it is lightweight and convenient. It does not break. It can easily be formed into any shape, and it costs much less than many other materials.
Plastic is versatile and useful. So billion-dollar corporations continue researching and finding innovative ways to create new types of it.
Items like plastic grocery bags, water bottles, and straws are all wasteful because they only get used once before we throw them away. Then they last an extremely long time in a landfill!
There are two main kinds of plastics:
- Thermoset Plastics – They never break down
- Thermoplastics – They break down and can be recycled
The use of thermoset plastics has decreased drastically over the last twenty years or so. There is something in them that can get reused, but we still need to figure out how to do it.
Recycling different types of plastic
Five of the seven most commonly-used plastics are easy to recycle. However, there are many different ways that each type of plastic gets formulated for specific applications. That makes it very hard for recyclers because each formulation within the same category of plastic has to be recycled separately.
Polypropylene plastics (PP Plastics)
Hundreds of different types of polypropylene get manufactured because companies require different formulations to fit their specific applications.
A vast array of different plastics
There is a vast array of different plastics. That causes problems for companies like Printerior because their machines can recycle some formulations but not others.
TerraCycle is a company that has been researching hard-to-recycle materials. It is one of the few companies in the US that tries to recycle 3-D print filament. You can pay them to send you recycling boxes for specific categories of materials, like candy wrappers or lipstick tubes. Some vendors may even sponsor recycling boxes for their products!
We need to pay attention when recycling. If we put all our plastics together in one bag before putting them in a recycling bin, those items will likely end up in a landfill since the plastic, a film rather than a solid, cannot get processed by most single stream recyclers.
Making it easier for recyclers
Only about 9% of all the items intended for recycling get recycled. Certain municipalities still allow items for recycling to get sorted and separated. That makes things a lot easier for recyclers and increases the amount of recycling!
In the future, recycling may get done chemically rather than mechanically.
Some recycling plants use high-end robotics to do their sorting. But many still use basic machines and rely on people to sort things by hand.
Many people prefer to buy items with less packaging because a lot of single-use plastic gets used for packaging that just goes to waste.
From industrial waste to high-value products
Industry produces a lot of plastic waste! At Printerior, they use clean industrial waste PLA and PETG plastics to produce their 3-D print filaments. That helps them know what they are working with, have a clean stream, and create a high-value product!
They are moving toward using post-consumer plastic and turning it into new items. They are currently doing some tests and preparing to launch their new material.
Who Printerior work with
Printerior works with consumer waste. They collect waste from hobbyists, school districts, universities, and maker spaces, process it, and turn it into high-quality 3-D filament.
When their new product comes out, Printerior will be the first company in the 3-D printing world to bring filament made from recycled post-consumer plastics to market. They are also about to launch several other first-to-market post-industrial materials.
Most people use PLA filament for their 3-D printers. PLA is a recyclable bioplastic that is usually made from corn. Most compostable single-use utensils and food trays get made from PLA. Printerior currently uses industrial waste from the companies producing those items. They are working towards using post-consumer items as well.
What you can do to help with the plastic problem
- Use less single-use packaging
- Use more reusable items
- Recycle what you can
- Buy items made from recycled materials
Something to look out for
Don’t fall for marketing schemes that say items are “recyclable” rather than “recycled”.
Ways to recycle
Go to the website of your local municipality and look up the best ways to recycle for their facilities. Many municipalities also have drop-off locations. Those locations are usually where most recycling happens.
Have a great green day!
https://printeriordesigns.com/ Use code GreenHomeCoach for 10% off your first order.