GreenBatch turns waste plastic into free 3D printer filament for schools

Australian engineer Darren Lomman is addressing Western Australia’s lack of plastic reprocessing facilities by turning the region’s waste plastic into 3D printer filament.

Through his not-for-profit organization GreenBatch, Lomman is aiming to reduce the amount of plastic waste ending up in the oceans, landfill or incinerators, whilst simultaneously popularising 3D printing as an educational tool in schools.

The plastic problem

The lack of local plastic reprocessing facilities means that in Western Australia, plastic that doesn’t end up in oceans or landfill is often sold on to the international waste market for energy generation through incineration.

This is a process which, if unregulated, emits carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere along with mercury, lead, cadmium and sulfur compounds.

To combat this, along with the prediction by some ecologists that there will be more plastic in our ocean than fish by 2050, Lomman set up GreenBatch, to collect plastic, reprocess it, and then turn it into filament. The filament aims to serve, according to GreenBatch, the 70% of schools in Western Australia that have a 3D printer.

The processing machine used to demonstrate the plastic recovery process. Photo via GreenBatch.
The processing machine used to demonstrate the plastic recovery process. Photo via GreenBatch.

A non-commercial and educational solution

With the long-term goal of building Western Australia’s first plastic reprocessing plant in the state capital of Perth, Lomman has already drawn up a plan to address the plastic problem.

It involves setting up collection points across the state where waste plastic bottles made of PET can be discarded. The current pilot programme involves some 50 schools around Western Australia hosting plastic collection points.

Additional, Lomman estimates that two million plastic bottles can be removed from landfills, oceans and incinerators through the program annually, and up to 100 million by 2025. To fund the project, GreenBatch is running a crowdfunding campaign, and selling T-shirts and swimwear made from 3D printed fabric.

The GreenBatch logo and printed objects. Photo via GreenBatch.
The GreenBatch logo and printed objects. Photo via GreenBatch.

From down under to the world over

3D printing with recycled plastic materials has been successfully tried and tested. Venture-bit’s Shred-Buddy3D allows you to up-cycle plastic bottles and leftover filament into 3D printing pellets at home, while a vending machine created by students from Sicily allows you to swap plastic bottles for a smartphone case 3D printed from the same material.

In a similar vein, Cornwall’s Fishy Filaments transforms used fishing nets and other plastic flotsam into 3D printing filament, while The Netherlands’ Refil does likewise with used yoghurt pots.

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Featured image shows Lomman presenting GreenBatch’s work at a school whilst wearing a 3D printed fabric T-shirt. Photo via GreenBatch.