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DIY recycling the most energy efficient

United States – A study by Michigan Technological University in the USA has revealed that turning commonplace plastic scrap into 3D printing filament consumes ‘a lot less’ energy than conventional recycling.

US materials science and engineering specialist Joshua Pearce has conducted a life-cycle analysis on a milk bottle made from HDPE plastic, spanning a process of cleaning, cutting, shredding and, finally, 3D printing. He found that creating a new product at home uses 3%-plus less energy than an ′ideal′ urban recycling programme.

′Where it really shows substantial savings is in smaller towns, where you have to transport the plastic to be collected, then again to be recycled, and a third time to be made into products,′ Pearce notes. In this scenario, energy savings ′skyrocket′ to 70-80%. ′And recycling your own milk jugs uses 90% less energy than making virgin plastic from petroleum,′ he adds.

his do-it-yourself recycling technology has already caught the eye of the Ethical Filament Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of waste pickers. ′In the developing world, it′s hard to get filament, and if these people could make it and sell it for, say, US$ 15 per kg, they′d make enough money to pull themselves out of poverty while doing the world a lot of good,′ Pearce says.

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