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At least ever since the birth of alchemy, the dream has always been to be able to turn something worthless and common into something valuable. I’ve been desperately casting about for a recipe for turning used kleenex into gold; alas, no luck so far. However, with the invention of 3D printers and their ability to create things using plastic filament, the idea of trash to treasure is becoming less far fetched.

We’ve seen efforts across the world to recycle plastic waste into filament. In the Netherlands, efforts are underway to convert the plastic waste into public seating. This after The New Raw, a Rotterdam-based research and design studio run by architects Foteini Setaki and Panos Sakkas, released information that the plastic waste generated by just three Dutch residents would be sufficient to complete two big plastic benches that could then be placed in public areas to provide seating. They have developed a prototype, which they are calling the XXX bench, in order to demonstrate how the waste could be converted into a beneficial public project. In the words of Sakkas:

“Plastic packaging is everywhere and plastic packaging has a major design failure: it is designed to last forever but it is used only for a few seconds and then it is easily thrown away. That is because it follows a linear process from production to use to disposal. This linear process we wish to turn it into a closed loop so that we can actually create new products from waste.”

The benches, which weigh 110 pounds a piece, are created with filament made either from pellets or flakes from ground up discarded plastic. They can seat two to four people, depending on how cozy they wish to be when seated. The rounded bottoms of the benches allow them to rock, meaning that as people sit on them, they will have to work to either rock in tandem or find some form of equilibrium. This kind of seating helps to create interaction in public spaces, something that is widely recognized as the foundation for a cohesive society.

It could also encourage people to participate in the adaptation of their public spaces to include benches, and pay for those benches simply by sorting their own plastic waste. All of this is part of the concept of circular cities which encourages thinking about ways in which urban environments can close the waste loop in order to be more sustainable citizens of a world with abundant but not infinite resources. This follows on William McDonough’s idea of Cradle-to-Cradle production in which, while resources are finite, there is an infinite loop into which they can be inserted.

It is possible to customize the shape and size of the benches and even to create them with messages or logos printed on them. In this way, the studio hopes to encourage the involvement of businesses in the seating initiative. As a representative of The New Raw explained:

“Cities provide a suitable field for large, long-lasting and easy to trace applications for recycled plastic. In this field, the technology of 3D printing enables closing the material loop of plastic with a short recycling path and a zero waste production process. Furthermore, it can combine modular repair and mass customization, making a more circular city feasible with more engaged citizens and less CO2 emissions.”

It’s not as simple as feeding a grocery bag into a 3D printer; instead the plastic has to be shredded, washed, chemically treated and then extruded, but it’s still a great deal easier than living in a plastic wasteland.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source: New Atlas / Images: The New Raw]

 

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