AMS Spring 2023

Halifax e-NABLE Branch Recycling Plastic Weed Container Lids into 3D Printed Prosthetic Limbs

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Jake Boudreau [Image: CBC News]

Last year, Halifax resident Jacob Boudreau, who works for a logistics company, watched a TED Talk by heartwarming 3D printed prosthetics volunteer organization e-NABLE, and was inspired to open his own non-profit e-NABLE chapter, called Kindness3D.

Boudreau said, “This project really resonated with me because it’s the perfect marriage between health and tech.”

Isabella, from Nosara, Costa Rica, received a 3D printed prosthetic hand from Kindness3D. [Image: Kindness3D]

Things started off normally enough, with Kindness3D using regular PLA material to fabricate prosthetics, including a 3D printed hand and arm for Brazilian athlete Kelly De Oliveira Malaquias and a hand for a young girl in Costa Rica.

But Boudreau’s work to provide 3D printed prosthetics is now dovetailing with another passion – recycling plastic waste from what he refers to as the “excessive cannabis packaging conundrum” of the NSLC (Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation), the province’s legal cannabis distributor.

Boudreau said, “There’s no real plan in place for how much waste is being put through the NSLC.”

Recently, Canada became the first major world economy to legalize recreational marijuana. But many customers in Nova Scotia are criticizing the NSLC for using excessive packaging for the product. Cannabis guidelines for Health Canada say that the packaging must be tamper-proof, child-resistant, and prevent contamination.

Easy Cheesy cannabis, purchased at the NSLC in Halifax. [Image: CBC News]

While the white plastic containers that Canada’s pot comes in do meet these guidelines, some consumers say they are environmentally unfriendly and not able to be recycled. Boudreau says that all of the lids will eventually end up in landfills…so he’s taking action.

Just like the Million Waves Project uses recycled ocean plastic to make 3D printed prosthetic limbs, Boudreau and Kindness3D want to use these plastic pot container lids to make 3D printed prosthetics for kids.

“We just noticed that there was an obscene amount of waste. To me it seemed incredibly wasteful. It was actually frustrating for me as a consumer,” Boudreau said.

He first got the idea to recycle the plastic cannabis lids into plastic for 3D printed prosthetic limbs when customers asked him if he could help with the waste problem.

“We jumped on board, noticing that there wasn’t really a plan in place to deal with this kind of waste. It’s something we’re really excited about,” Boudreau said. “We’re doing our part to kind of help out and as well repurpose this packaging and create some artificial limbs from it.”

Lizzy Brown of Kindness3D holds up an empty cannabis package at the recent workshop in Halifax. The group is asking Haligonians to drop off the used caps from cannabis packaging at various spots around the city for them to be shredded and turned into 3D printed prosthetics. [Image: Fadila Chater, Star Metro]

First, Kindness3D modified a paper shredder so it could be used to break down the plastic pot container lids, so the shredded plastic could be used in the organization’s 3D printer. Then, it began to ask other local businesses to collect the used lids. Now, Kindness3D asks Nova Scotians to bring the empty cannabis containers, lids and all, to Boudreau’s Dalhousie University Sexton Campus operation, and various other drop-off points, for recycling and reprocessing into prosthetic limbs.

Boudreau hopes to use the lids of cannabis containers to make prosthetic limbs. [Image: CBC, Kindness3D]

Since beginning the cannabis lid recycling project, Boudreau is already working to complete a 3D printed prosthetic arm for a four-year-old girl in California. Additionally, he started a petition in hopes of convincing the NSLC to collect and donate all of its used cannabis packaging to Kindness3D.

But, according to NSLC spokesperson Beverley Ware, the corporation has not been contacted by Kindness3D yet…maybe it’s waiting to get a certain number of signatures first?

Ware is also requesting that customers continue to follow the recycling programs already set up in their communities.

Ware explained, “We do not recycle bottle or cans and don’t have the room in our stores to provide such a drop-off service or the infrastructure to deliver products for recycling.”

I hope this recycling initiative by Kindess3D doesn’t turn into some kind of legal battle. I understand that there are rules for a reason, and maybe the infrastructure doesn’t allow for this sort of program just yet. But the non-profit is trying to do a very noble thing in both recycling large amounts of wasteful plastic and providing 3D printed prosthetics to the people who need them most, so I hope that everything will work out in the end.

[Image: Kindness3D]

What do you think about this? Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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