Innovation That Matters

3D-printing organization pays "pickers" to collect waste plastic for filaments

Nonprofit & Social Cause

Protoprint has partnered with waste picker co-operatives in India to create the world's first fair trade 3D-printing filament.

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3D-printing is seen by many as the preserve of economically advanced nations — either looking for a new rapid prototyping technology, or simply a fun hobby. However, Protoprint are now adding to the technology’s green and social credentials, by partnering with waste picker co-operatives in India.

The organization recently joined forces with a co-operative called SWaCH in Pune, India, which employs local “pickers” to sort through the city’s waste bins for plastic bottles. Once collected, Protoprint trains the pickers to wash the HDPE plastic and shred it in a FlakerBot, before melting it down into reels of filament using a RefilBot. In doing so, Protoprint create what they describe as “the world’s first fair trade filament”, which is then ready for use in 3D-printing. You can see more on the process in the video below:

By setting up filament production facilities locally and on waste sites, Protoprint offers a way for waste-picking co-operatives such as SWaCH to support pickers directly. Rather than selling plastic to scrap dealers, pickers can reportedly earn over fifteen times more through Protoprint for the same amount of plastic. Could such initiatives be the future of 3D-printing?



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