From Pinshape Blog
The effect of 3D printing on the environment has been a growing topic as people begin to be more aware of their carbon and waste footprints. If you love 3D printing but want to find ways to make it more “green”, here are a few considerations.
Before we get to that, however, we’ll start with the concerns – how can 3D printing be bad for the environment?
4 Barriers to Green 3D Printing
1) Support Material Goes to Waste: Although this material is sometimes necessary to save your entire print from ruin, ideally you don’t need supports to successfully print a design. This is why we encourage 3D designers create models which don’t require supports. Not only are they a pain to remove – they’re wasteful.
2) Most leftover plastic material ends up in the garbage
Most of us don’t know what to do with our failed prints, so they end up in the garbage. It’s not that we don’t want to recycle them, it’s that we’re not exactly sure how to recycle it/compost it. Before we go over the options, I think it’s important to distinguish between biodegradable and compostable as there is a lot of buzz around new filament materials that are compostable.
Biodegradable- According to the FTC’s Green Guide, for something to be biodegradable, it must show evidence of breaking down in nature until microorganisms digest it and it returns to the earth. This process must happen in a reasonably short period of time after disposal. When something is just degradable, it means that it will break down into smaller pieces and will not necessarily be digested by microorganisms.
Compostable– This means the material will completely biodegrade fast enough in a certain environment. Compostable plastic will have three features:
The material breaks down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass at the same rate as paper
The material fully disintegrates in a compost pile
No toxic residues are left and the compost supports plant growth
So which filaments are compostable and which aren’t? The two most common filaments to print with are ABS and PLA. ABS is a thermoplastic that is great for 3D printing because of it’s strength and durability. This material is not biodegradable or compostable, but can be recycled in other ways if you want to re-heat the material to use it again in a filament recycler.
Some PLA is compostable, though it requires a very specific temperature and environment to do so. It is made from products like cornstarch, sugar cane, and tapioca root so it can be absorbed by microorganisms. Experts recommend Makers to not throw their PLA in a recycling bin because it can biodegrade in the recycling process. One option is to compost your PLA in an industrial facility. Since the conditions in which PLA composts are somewhat sensitive, it’s not recommended to compost it at home.
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