An estimated 28 billion pounds of plastic trash is dumped into the oceans every year. Considering how little most plastic actually weighs, that’s an even more staggering number. Another estimate says that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of such statistics, and to wonder what can realistically be done to reduce the massive amounts of pollution that are filling the oceans and killing wildlife. No one person can clean up billions of tons of trash, but there are many people who are working to chip away at the problem, little by little – and some of them are doing tremendous good for individual people as they work to clean our oceans.

The Million Waves Project is a brand new organization, launching just this Earth Day, that works to relieve two global problems at once. The statistics about plastic in the ocean may be sobering, but there’s another disturbing statistic out there: approximately 40 million people in the developing world are in need of prosthetic limbs but have no access to them. So Million Waves Project founder Chris Moriarity came up with an idea to save two birds with one stone – he would start an organization that used recycled plastic to 3D print inexpensive prosthetics for people in need.

The project got off the ground quickly. Within a week of coming up with the idea, Moriarity had established a 501c(3) and was beginning to build partnerships with organizations that would help his vision become a reality. The first partner was GreenBatch, an Australian nonprofit that recycles plastic into 3D printer filament; it will be a primary source for filament to 3D print the prosthetics, which will be printed on an Ultimaker 2.  3DUniverse would provide the scaled implementation of the Million Waves Project’s long-term strategy, starting by connecting funds raised by the project to people in need of prosthetics. Meanwhile, e-NABLE would provide templates for the prosthetics as well as offer general support.

“We are just getting started,” said Moriarity. “This is a world-changing operation, and everyone can get involved on the ground floor—for as little as $45 we can provide a limb for someone that will dramatically change their life, they can go to work, or play ball with their friends—and we have the technology do it responsibly.”

You can donate $45 to sponsor a 3D printed prosthetic limb and receive a Million Waves keychain; donate more, and a portion of the money will go towards the research and development of 3D printed wheelchairs. The Million Waves Project is also looking into dental prosthetics in the future.

Another organization, Re:Purpose for Good, is similarly using recycled plastic to 3D print prosthetic devices. It’s an idea that makes sense – there’s far too much plastic in the world, and too few prosthetics for people who need them, so why not use the one to build the other? The billions upon billions of pounds of plastic waste in the oceans may seem like an insurmountable problem, and the millions of people without access to the prosthetic devices they need may also seem like an overwhelming statistic. But with organizations such as these, we can start making progress on both issues at once, a little bit at a time.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images: Million Waves Project]

 

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