New recycling facility opens for hard plastics

hard plastics recycling

Discarded hard plastics are being turned into 3D printer feedstock thanks to a collaboration between UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology (SMaRT) and IT asset management company Renew IT.

A UNSW-invented Plastics Filament MICROfactorieTM Technology module has been installed at Renew IT’s Sydney warehouse in Lane Cove, Sydney.

UNSW SMaRT Centre Founder and Director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla said, commercialising the Plastics Filament MICROfactorieTM Technology had taken a lot of time and effort, but it is a sustainable waste, recycling and manufacturing solution.

“We’re turning the hard plastics found in all modern electronic hardware but not subject to conventional recycling methods, into feedstock for a booming sector,” she said.

“Filament is almost entirely imported to Australia and made from petrochemicals, so being able to locally make it from used plastics also reduces the environmental impacts from global freight. 3D printing is a wonderful technology enjoying rapid uptake, but the tragedy is until now 3D printing has been reliant on virgin plastics.”

Sahajwalla said the Plastics Filament MICROfactoriesTM have the potential to revolutionise 3D printer filament creation.

“I look forward to a time when 3D printing feedstock is sourced exclusively from recycled plastics,” she said.

UNSW Vice-President Societal Impact, Equity and Engagement, Professor Verity Firth said UNSW’s partnership with Renew IT has the potential to create large-scale change.

“The venture addresses two wicked issues,” said Renew IT Chief Executive Officer and Founder James Lancaster. “Not only does it reduce virgin plastic production by creating 3D printing filament from waste items but it also stops hard plastic ending up in landfill.

“Dispatching hard plastics to landfill is not a solution that sits easily with me. To re-purpose that plastic into a new product that’s increasingly in demand and which we can sell at a competitive price is a beautiful solution.”

“If 3D printing feedstock can be competitively produced by recycling plastic, we shouldn’t be producing it with virgin materials,” he said.

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