Upcycling plastic waste through empirical implementation of large-scale 3D printing
Plastic waste presents a real global challenge and a threat to health, environment and the global economy. While awareness of the devastating effects of plastic waste on the environment has increased, the production of plastic products is still on the rise. As a result, many countries do not prioritise waste plastic recycling or the export of plastic wastes to other countries for recycling. However, the products from recycled waste plastics are considered to be of low quality and uneconomical to produce on large scale, thus making individuals and corporations giving preference using plastics from virgin materials rather than producing products from recycled plastics. These is therefore a need to develop an effective process through the use of technology to upcycle plastic waste locally to produce products of higher value from waste plastic. The current research sought to investigate the potential of distributed upcycling to change the production and consumption of plastic products in future. To this end, the study sought to prepare high value design application for upcycling and investigated how they could be implemented through large-scale 3D printing in urban environments. To achieve this, the researcher collected plastic waste materials from Wellington in New Zealand to be used in the study experiments. The plastic waste materials were first cleaned, sorted and cut into small pieces using a granulator before being taken through thermal processes to dry them out and set the right temperatures to ensure consistency of the plastic waste extrusion before being taken through the extrusion process. 3D Printing was used to design and make various final products from the recycled plastic waste. Experimentation with different formulations of waste plastic led to production of a high-quality filament successfully achieving the study objectives. As such, upcycling plastic waste using 3D Printing technology provides a locally viable solution to making useful products in large scale as a model for future development.