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[Image: 936 ABC Hobart: Carol Rääbus]

While they may be the most obvious examples, it isn’t just plastic bags and bottles that clog the oceans and endanger marine life. There are also microbeads, those little plastic granules in exfoliating skin care products; the delightfully named but environmentally damaging nurdles; and, of course, plastic waste from materials used in the oceans themselves – like fishing rope, for example. Ropes and nets used by commercial fisheries are often made from plastic, which eventually frays and leaves bits of itself floating in the ocean and tangling on the shore.

I suspect you can see where I’m going with this. The notion of using plastic waste to create 3D printer filament is nothing new; even large corporations like Adidas have used recycled plastic from the oceans to 3D print new products. Even with such efforts, though, there’s always more plastic garbage floating around out there (literally), so every time a business or individual comes up with a new plan for repurposing plastic, there’s reason to celebrate.

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Marcos Gogolin [Image: 936 ABC Hobart: Carol Rääbus]

Marcos Gogolin, a part time teacher at Tasmanian vocational training center TasTAFE, specializes in architectural design and sustainability. A few years ago, he went on a trip to the island’s west coast, where he was stunned to see how much garbage polluted the shore.

“We had a couple of dozen people walking along the coast…we picked up that year 4.5 tonnes of rubbish,” he said.

A few months after the trip, he was given a 3D printer to use in his classes. Gogolin was conflicted – after seeing firsthand how much excess plastic has ended up on the shorelines, he was now being asked to use even more plastic. However, he used his concern to create an opportunity. He had been particularly struck by the amounts of plastic rope littering the coast in bits and pieces, so he decided to solve two problems as once: he would figure out how to turn those plastic rope bits into 3D printing material, keeping that waste from the landfill while avoiding the creation of new plastic waste.

Using excess rope from the Huon Aquaculture fishery, Gogolin began experimenting with ways to melt the plastic into printable filament. It was a bit of a trial and error process; he went through several glue guns before setting on an industrial-quality gun that his students helped him incorporate into a rough prototype for a filament extruder.

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Gogolin’s recycled filament machine. [Image: 936 ABC Hobart: Carol Rääbus]

“It’s all a little bit dodgy,” he admitted. “I’m thinking once we get going and have a business case, we can talk to some engineers and maybe develop a machine ourselves.”

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[Image: 936 ABC Hobart: Carol Rääbus]

It may not be pretty, but Gogolin’s machine is an important first step towards his goal of cutting back on plastic waste, the amount of which can be overwhelming. Huon Aquaculture alone produces about a ton of plastic rope offcuts every week – too much for one machine to keep up with. Gogolin is optimistic, though, believing that plastic-repurposing inventions like his will become more frequent as the world continues to realize that production processes need to change.

“There is too much plastic being produced, it’s crazy, it’s completely out of hand,” he said. “I think it has to come to a point where to produce new plastic is so expensive, it’s not viable anymore and people will start to value the resource of the waste.”

Discuss in the Recycled Filament forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: ABC Hobart]

 

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