Renewing Materials: 3D Printing and Distributed Recycling Disrupting Samoa's Plastic Waste Stream
This research addresses the serious issue of plastic waste in the Pacific. Using Samoa as a case study, we hypothesise that distributed recycling combined with 3D printing offers an opportunity to re-purpose and add new value to this difficult waste stream. It is also an opportunity to engage diverse local communities in Samoa by combining notions of participatory design, maker-spaces and ‘wikis’ of parts with traditional Samoan social concepts such as ‘Fa’a Samoa’, or ‘the Samoan way’ and sense of community. The project seeks to explore creative and innovative solutions to re-purposing plastic waste via a range of design research methods. Field work in Samoa has established the scope of the issue through interviews with different stakeholders such as Government, waste management businesses, the arts and crafts community and education. The field work has also helped identify potential product areas and collaborative partners. The different types of plastic in the waste stream have been identified and material experiments such as plastic shredding and filament extrusion are underway using low cost open source processing equipment to transform plastic waste into usable 3D printing filament. From this filament, potential 3D printed end products are explored through a hands-on researching by making process. The experiments inform the design of workable, economically viable, socially empowering and sustainable scenarios for re-purposing and up-cycling plastic waste; printed in the form of useful and culturally meaningful 3D printed objects, artifacts and products.Applications range from creating greater awareness of the issue by way of tourism and the Samoan notion of ‘mea alofa’ or ‘gifting’, through to functional utensils and parts. It is an opportunity to expand Samoa’s traditional forms of craft into new self-sustaining communities, maker-spaces and small scale local industries. The outputs of the initial project are intended to provoke discussion and invite participation in the implementation of these different scenarios of production.