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Plastics in space: the recycling chapter

Global – NASA has selected Tethers Unlimited for a partner in its Small Business Innovation Research Program, which will see the latter develop a ‘Positrusion’ recycling system for the International Space Station (ISS).

Tethers Unlimited’s patent-pending system will effectively convert plastic waste into high-quality 3D printer filament for use in making tools, replacement parts and satellite components on board the ISS. The recycling solution is based on novel techniques that produce filament with ‘a much more consistent diameter and density than traditional extrusion processes’, explains Jesse Cushing, Tethers’ principal investigator for the project.

‘For a recycler to be useful on the ISS, it has to meet stringent safety requirements, and its design needs to minimise the amount of time an astronaut must spend operating it,’ comments Jeffrey Slostad, Tethers’ chief engineer. The hi-tech apparatus is ‘as simple to operate as a microwave oven’, he adds. The Positrusion system is also said to have ‘significant potential’ for use in recycling plastic waste in the consumer market.

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