3D printing is a technology, science, and art that revolves around materials—and with continual and amazing innovations also comes the constant concern of environmental impact. How can we best deal with refuse in an environmentally friendly way? As more and more citizens of the world find positive ways to do so, we see 3D printing and recycling coming together with energy and action too—creating even more innovation and myriad ways to play a part in protecting our planet for future generations of designers, inventors, tinkerers, and makers. While 3D printing is undeniably amazing, none of us want the end product, literally, to be piles of trashed, plastic 3D models.
Reflow, based in Amsterdam, is a company already on their way to making a positive and unique impact for recycling plastics, working with wastepickers in Africa to continue the chain of recycling, and rewarding them in ways previously unheard of.
We’ve been following their story and unique product as they work to bring further attention to the issue of extreme poverty in areas like Tanzania where many individuals, sometimes whole families, collect trash on a constant basis to often make less than $1.50 per day. And while it’s certainly not a career choice most anyone aims for, wastepickers actually do a huge service for cities in removing trash, with a large portion of that being plastic items like water bottles—the major source of Reflow’s materials.
“Traveling and working throughout Africa…we’ve seen the shadow side of the plastic industry,” states the Reflow team on their Kickstarter campaign. “Everywhere you go you can find huge groups of people collecting waste barely being able to feed their family, plastic being burned in open air and plastic waste clogging drains, causing floods and spread disease. Seeing this broke our hearts, and we were determined to help break this cycle.”
Plastics and the use of disposable water bottles have been under fire for quite some time, with very good reason. But what Reflow is doing is turning plastic trash into a valuable and plentiful resource: high quality 3D printing filament. They do this by rewarding wastepickers with higher pay for plastics which they then clean and shred into 6mm flakes. The Reflow team states that they are able to see that for every roll of filament, $3 benefits wastepickers directly. While many are still employed in this practice, it’s more challenging than ever as due to low oil prices, plastic prices are low too—causing the closure of many recycling centers that wastepickers would sell to.
“Reflow is the first filament that’s both ethical and sustainable, with no compromise on either price or quality,” says Jasper Middendorp, co-founder of Reflow. “By selling the product globally, we can increase the value of recycled plastics by up to twenty times. Imagine the impact this could have on the ground.
“For every kilogram of filament you buy, a waste collector can feed his family for five days—and 120 plastic bottles are removed from the street. We’re driven to grow the communities we work with, and that’s why we invest twenty-five percent of our profits into exciting local manufacturing initiatives.”
Now, to create their own financial resources to follow through on manufacturing and production of the Reflow product, the team has launched their Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising $28,623 by June 2. Not only are they offering rewards of filament, but also pieces of art made from Reflow filament. The team has been working with a group of talented 3D artists with a growing list of names, including animators, sculptors, architects, and more. Reflow is also working with product designer Hussain Almossawi and entrepreneur Hesham Alsabea to make exclusive prints from their ‘Enlightening Design’ series, also available as rewards for those backing the Reflow Kickstarter campaign.
If you are interested in getting in on early bird discounts with Reflow while they are on Kickstarter, as little as a $29 investment will get you one roll of Reflow filament made in Tanzania, as well as a personalized video message and recognition on the Reflow website. Delivery on most items is projected for either January or February of 2017.
As prices inch up just slightly, you can receive Level 1 artwork, choosing one design from choices such as:
- Low-Poly Retro character by Flowalistik
- Ouroboros dragon by Shane Bevin
- One of four original Jewelry Charms created by Sylvia Heisel and Scott Taylor
- Small Nepenthes Planter by Noë Ruiz
- SIM Bracelet by Ziko
With those choices, an additional $35 will yield a roll of filament with your pledge. As prices ascend, those backing the campaign receive greater volumes of filament. In the $114 range, those pledging are able to choose from Level 2 artwork, choosing from designs such as:
- Art Piece by Joshua Harker
- REFLOW-O-MATIC Robot by Juri Pranjic
- Reflow fighter plane by Flowalistik
- Full jewelry Charms set created by Sylvia Heisel & Scott Taylor
- Reflow croc dude by Aran Quinn
Level 3 artwork includes:
- Reflow Stealth Fighter by Andrew Bougie
- Bauhaus Chess set by Franc Falco
- Filament Mason jar by Guy Snover
- Structural Design by Vincenzo Reale
- Nuka-Cola Raygun by Daniel Lilygreen
Rewards from the ‘Enlightening Design’ series are more steep, beginning around $2290 for an exclusive lighting design (of your choice, to be discussed upon the end of the campaign) and a roll of filament too.
The higher financial ranges for backing also include several options for their ‘Give Away to the Community’ program where you can opt to pay larger sums but know that large volumes of filament are going to the maker spaces and educational facilities of your choice within the US, Europe, and Africa.
The end goal for Reflow is to see wastepickers better rewarded, and hopefully moving on to a better way of life, as well as establishing a newly refreshed market for recycling of plastics and seeing communities using 3D printing to enjoy all the benefits it offers—especially self-sustainability, great affordability, and a way to make customized innovations and explore creativity without having to pay a middleman for small-volume manufacturing.
The message of the company is not only thoughtful and innovative in itself, but what they are planning to do in combining technology, recycling, and rewarding others is of substantial importance. This is one Kickstarter campaign that you really don’t want to miss checking out and supporting, if possible. Even if you decide not to back Reflow, the information is important and the team is inspiring. Are you backing this campaign? Discuss further in the Reflow 3D Printing Filament Kickstarter forum over at 3DPB.com.