The University of Wollongong is adopting new technology designed to repurpose plastic waste for 3D printers. The university’s Makerspace club is behind the project, and its members hope the new approach to recycling will reduce plastic pollution in the Wollongong.
“We’re kind of moulding it after an initiative called Precious Plastics. It’s sort of a grass roots project designed to take all different types of plastic and melt them down and make something cool out of them,” Makerspace assistant Clancy Carr said.
“Either repurposing it as 3D printing filaments, or maybe using it as part of a mould to create all different types of objects like pots, posters, clipboards, anything like that, down the track.”
The program was originally designed to recycle the PLA plastic used by 3D printers, so the plastic from failed prints wouldn’t be wasted. However, the Makerspace team is now looking to also recycle PET1 plastic, which is found in items such as disposable drink bottles.
Wollongong environmental groups say the program will have a positive impact on the city’s plastic pollution problem, and hope to see it develop to recycle more types of plastic.
“I think it’s a great idea and I hope they can do it with other plastics as well. Finding other alternatives technologies to use it up, that’s probably a good solution,” Plastic Free Wollongong volunteer Isabella Svinos said.
“I think the biggest problem is that we’re just consuming without reusing and repurposing stuff, and that’s why it’s all ending up in the ocean. If we can find a way to kind of rework what we’ve already got, than that’s a great solution.”
Along with rubbish from marked bins on the UOW campus, Makerspace is receiving plastic from The Wollongong Harbour Clean-up and Quantification Group, who scuba dive in the harbour every week. In the past two months alone, they’ve collected 3,632 pieces of rubbish, the majority of which being plastic.
“If you have a plastic bag in the ocean and it slowly wears away it just gets broken into smaller and smaller pieces: it doesn’t actually go away, and so they’re probably one of the biggest issues in terms of fish and marine life eating them, and they’re harder for us to actually pick up and find,” Ms Svinos said.
“If Makerspace can find a way to reuse them and get them out of the water than that would be great.”
“Australia produces 1.3 million tonnes of plastic a year, so if we could manage to get some of that out of the waste system and reuse it, that’d be absolutely incredible,” Mr Carr said.