From Line to Loop, A Circular 3D Printing Initiative for Upcycling Commercial Fishing Plastics
The current linear use of plastic products follows a take, make and waste process. Commonly used by large scale industries, including the commercial fishing industry, this process results in approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean every year. While the fishing industry supplies livelihoods, a valuable food source and financial capital to millions of people worldwide, it’s also a significant contributor to the ocean plastics crisis. Without effective recycling schemes, an estimated 640,000 tonnes of plastic fishing gear is abandoned, lost or discarded within the ocean every year. New Zealand is no exception to this problem, as China’s waste import ban, as well as a lack of local recycling infrastructures, has resulted in the country’s commercial fishing gear polluting local coastlines as well as islands in the pacific. With the only other option for the plastic fishing gear being landfill, there is a critical need for circular initiatives that upcycle used plastic fishing gear locally into eco-innovative designs. This research examines the issue by investigating how used buoys, aquaculture ropes and fishing nets from New Zealand’s fishing company ‘Sanford’ may be upcycled into eco-innovative designs through distributed manufacturing technologies. It introduces the idea of the circular economy, where plastic fishing gear can be reused within a technical cycle and explores how 3D printing could be part of the solution as it provides local initiatives, low material and energy usage and customisation. Overall, the research follows the research through design based on design criteria approach. Where materials, designs and systems are created under the refined research criteria, to ensure the plastic fishing gear samples are upcycled effectively into eco-innovative designs through 3D printing. The tangible outputs of this research demonstrate how a circular upcycling system that uses distributed manufacturing technologies can create eco-innovative designs and provide a responsible disposal scheme for plastic fishing gear. It provides a new and more sustainable waste management scheme that could be applied to a range of plastic waste streams and diverts materials from entering the environment by continuously reusing them within the economy.