3D Printing

3D printing, Recycled filament Creating filament from recycled plastics is the goal to accomplish one of the 6R’s (Reduce, reuse, recycle, reclaim, recover or remove).

3D printing, Recycled filament

Plastic pollution has become one of the most persistent environmental concerns, as a constant increase of the demand and production of disposable plastic products, overpassing the environment’s ability to decompose them. Sadly, the plastics industry fails to recognize the propagation of social and political changes regarding single-use plastics, especially, plastics made from fossil fuels.


Today, single-use plastics account for more than 40 percent of the plastic produced every year (ourworldindata.org)

Plastic pollution is an issue that stresses worldwide cooperation, similar to climate change. Studies reveal that the production of plastics from fossil fuel is only cost effective when the components not used for plastics are used for energy production, treating plastic more as a byproduct of the industry. Therefore, if the industry transitions away from fossil fuels, and towards renewable resources, then the production of wasteful single-use plastic could be severely reduced, if not completely eliminated.


Plastic filament is one of the most used raw materials to 3D print, FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printers are the most common type of 3D printers available. There are several types of filament available with different properties, ranging from color, type of plastic and other mechanical properties, nevertheless some eco-friendly filaments do exist; varying from the CO2 footprint to the chemical properties and environmental impact when disposed.

Regardless of the benefits, 3D printing generates large amounts of waste, to enumerate some, starting from the result of failed prints to rejected support structures. Furthermore, the ability to create components without machining or tools causes that many prints are used as disposable prototypes.


Support material is generally required with complex geometry 3D prints, specially where overhangs exist.

Generally, most “Eco-Friendly” plastic filaments aren’t easy to find and neither a cheap alternative, but recycled filament could be an option that helps reduce the CO2 footprint, following the criteria of the 6R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Redesign and Remanufacture), PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) are the most promising regarding the fabrication of “green” filament, ranging from a factory process to a domestic plastic extruder.

ABS is a petroleum derivate product, generally recyclable and PLA is biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic derived from resources such as corn, roots, sugarcane and other renewable resources.


PET Translucent Re-filament, made from old PET bottles, up to 90% recycled (re-filament.com)

Nowadays, market offers various filaments made from second hand PLA, PET, ABS, and HIPS. Re-Filament, a Dutch startup company made filament from recycled plastic bottles (PET) and old car dashboards (ABS), other commercially available filament spools from HIPS are made from old refrigerators or automotive parts.


ABS Recycled Plastic filament made out from old car dashboards, developed by Re-Fil. (re-filament.com)


There are other alternatives to make your own recycled filament, such as buying an existing Filament extruding machine or even building it by yourself. (filabot.com)

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