plastic waste and support material

Are we harming the environment?

Its time to address the elephant in the room, well it’s not really an elephant but it is a big issue that we cannot get around. As a business we 3D print plastic things, yes, I said it, plastic. Now plastic suddenly seems to be the big bad.  Plastic is all over the news thanks to Blue Planet 2 and everybody seems to be jumping on the band wagon in opposition to plastic waste which, honestly, is a good thing. There is so much plastic waste getting into places it shouldn’t be, polluting the environment and entering the food chain. I’m sure we have all seen the distressing images of plastic waste in the sea and heart-breaking pictures of sea turtles with plastic in their stomachs.

Our impact and plastic waste

As a company we use plastic, its what we do and there and is no getting away from that. However, we try to be as environmental friendly as possible in the rest of our business. We use recycled paper and our envelopes and boxes are recycled. Outgoing packaging is maize based or recycled voidfill paper and our boxes are 60 – 90% recycled material. As a family we also recycle as much as we possibly can.

As all our items are printed to order, and can be personalised there are no unnecessary items sitting about your order is, literally, fresh of the print bed and, many of our items are outside of the “disposable” bracket. Support materials (the green stuff in the photograph) is kept to a minimum by usage of clever print orientations and inbuilt support free designs. After all every meter of wasted print filament is money out of our pocket.

Yes, there is waste but it’s about half a shoe box full of plastic waste every month, and currently there is nowhere in the UK that recycles PLA.

What IS PLA

On the subject of PLA, there is plastic and there is plastic! PLA is Poly Lactic Acid and unlike other common plastics such as ABS (lego) or PET (drinks bottles) PLA  is not fossil fuel based. It is produced with vegetable oils and is biodegradable (using certain bacteria). We also do use ABS and PETG but in very small amounts as they either smell (in the case of ABS) or have less of a range (PETG is very new). PLA is pretty much as close to an ethical plastic as we can get. You can read more about PLA on WIKIPEDIA

What else?

The reels the filament come on are not recyclable, but we have a found uses for some of them, they are perfect to wind wires round and to put balls of wool onto. The push in the 3D printing world is for spool-less distribution which we will wholeheartedly adopt once our suppliers come on board. After all 3D printing is, at its heart, a makers movement. Why not make out own spools too!

Eventually it would be nice to recycle all of our plastic waste but until that time it has to be disposed of in the normal way. In the grand scheme of things, the amount of waste we produce is negligible and lesser in its environmental impact.

We also use a small degree of chemicals mainly for cleaning purposes, in this case pure acetone (nail varnish remover essentially) and pure alcohol (not potable sadly) and of course there is (a surprisingly small) amount of power used in the printing itself. The printer consumes about as much as an average home PC.

FREE STUFF

Finally if anyone wants an empty filament roll then contact us, its yours for the cost of postage. Also if you have any good ideas on how to reuse or upcycle them then please feel free to mention it.