Waste Much? Ecogensus Turns Household Trash into 3D Printing Powders

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A Connecticut-based company uses household waste to make polymer composite powders and granules for 3D printing and other manufacturing processes. Under the motto “giving new life to the building blocks of our world,” Ecogensus hopes to end waste landfilling and dumping by 2030.

Founded in 2015, Ecogensus began as a small tech company focused on ending waste. It has grown into a global enterprise with six brands and nearly 80 patents. It offers industrial machinery, recycling facilities, bioenergy, advanced materials, digital resource management, and sustainable luxury furniture. Known for its Recyclers,—proprietary flagship machinery for upcycling mixed, unsorted municipal solid waste— Ecogensus offers processors for various types of waste, including wastewater sludge and lignite coal.

Ecogensus’ Rhino Recycler machine. Image courtesy of Ecogensus.

The brand recently announced it will be producing new materials from mixed wastes. These materials unlock the potential value of billions of tons of unused resources. Designed to integrate seamlessly with 3D printing, injection molding, and similar technologies, these polymer powders offer a sustainable alternative to conventional plastics and can be engineered for applications like consumer goods, industrial products, and construction.

A patent granted on April 23, 2024, covers Ecogensus’ method of converting everyday waste—such as food waste, diapers, plastics, paper, cardboard, and yard waste—into engineered powders at a molecular level. These powders can create high-quality everyday products through existing manufacturing processes.

CEO and Founder Bjørnulf Østvik noted, “This development is a pivotal moment for both Ecogensus and the broader manufacturing and environmental sectors. Our patented technology platform reinvents how materials are sourced and utilized, promoting a circular economy and mitigating environmental impacts.”

Ecogensus CEO and Founder Bjørnulf Østvik. Image courtesy of Ecogensus.

According to Ecogensus, transforming waste into usable materials involves several key steps. First, mixed household waste is collected and sorted. Then, the sorted waste is put through a proprietary process that breaks it down into fine powders. These powders undergo further treatment to become polymeric composite resins, which integrate seamlessly into current manufacturing processes, like 3D printing, without compromising quality or performance. A key part of the process is polymer cross-linking to boost the strength and versatility of the materials derived from processed solid waste. This step creates bonds between the polymer chains, making the final product more robust and adaptable.

Ecogensus’ subsidiary brand, Ecogensus Elements, is behind the creation of these new materials and products directly from household waste, considered “the ultimate in sustainability.” This includes proprietary composite materials (lumber substitutes), powders, and granules. According to the company, Ecogensus Elements is at the cutting edge of the circular economy, producing materials that address the global waste crisis—including stopping methane emissions—and providing a nearly endless, sustainable resource.

End products range from raw materials for sale to third-party producers to replace first-use fossil-derived plastics to wood substitutes for furniture, house siding, flooring, and decking. Moreover, the company is moving forward with research to enhance further waste-derived materials, such as eco-friendly flame retardants and biocides.

Ecogensus sub-brand Elements. Image courtesy of Ecogensus.

Ecogensus can access an unlimited resource base for its products because waste is produced globally in large quantities, with an estimated 2.24 billion tonnes of solid waste annually, translating to about 0.79 kilograms per person per day. Converting household waste into valuable materials takes advantage of this. Ecogensus gets its waste by partnering with local governments and waste management companies to collect and process this waste efficiently. The company has secured significant deals, including a licensing and supply agreement valued at over $120 million, with potential multi-year contract values far exceeding $1.5 billion.

The issue of waste is a global challenge. For example, a recent documentary by Australian filmmaker Eva Orner, Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion highlights the enormous amount of waste produced worldwide, with the U.S. and Europe even shipping used clothes to places like Ghana, where it pollutes beaches.

Similarly, in 2010, Annie Leonard’s book The Story of Stuff shed light on the lifecycle of material goods and how excessive consumerism leads to environmental degradation, resource depletion, and social injustice. By transforming household trash into engineered powders, Ecogensus is addressing many of these critical issues and promoting a sustainable resource for manufacturing, proving the importance of such solutions for our future.

Flagship system from waste management technology company Ecogensus. Image courtesy of Ecogensus.

“We are setting new standards in the materials sector, including in additive manufacturing. Ecogensus’ process turns waste into a valuable commodity, a game-changer for industries aiming for sustainable innovation,” remarked William Gress, an Ecogensus Board member and former CEO of rapid prototype manufacturing company Prototek.

By transforming household trash into engineered powders, Ecogensus hopes to reduce waste and offer a sustainable resource for manufacturing. Such a transformative idea that turns everyday waste into high-quality products should be at the top of the list for governments and individuals if we are to reach the goals set for a sustainable and environmentally-friendly future, as outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.

“This opens up a new frontier – imagine the contents of your kitchen garbage (even the food waste!), processed into polymeric powders and granules that can be used to produce consumer goods and even building materials!” explains the company in a LinkedIn post.

Creating sustainable plastic substitutes from household waste would contribute to a circular economy, ensuring that waste is not discarded but used as a valuable resource. Ecogensus’s resource technology has a deep potential impact on the environment and the manufacturing sector.

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