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Sydney Launches World’s First E-Waste Recycling Facility for 3D Printing Filament

Published on July 10, 2024 by Isaac B.

Last week, the city of Sydney, Australia, announced the launch of a new facility dedicated to recycling hard plastics from electronic waste into 3D printing filament. The facility, a joint venture between the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Renew IT, an IT asset management firm, represents a significant step towards a more sustainable approach to waste management.

The facility, located in Lane Cove in New South Wales, features the cutting-edge Plastics Filament MICROfactorie Technology developed by the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology (SMaRT). This technology converts hard plastic waste, commonly found in electronic devices, into valuable 3D printing material. Professor Veena Sahajwalla, founder and director of the UNSW SMaRT Centre, expressed her enthusiasm for the project, stating, “We’re turning the hard plastics found in all modern electronic hardware but not subject to conventional recycling methods into feedstock for a booming sector.”

Renew IT Founder and CEO James Lancaster and UNSW SMaRT Centre Founder and Director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla. (Photo Credits: UNSW Sydney)

Traditionally, 3D printer filament in Australia has been made from imported petrochemicals. However, this new facility will produce filament locally using recycled plastics, mitigating the environmental impact of global shipping and reducing the reliance on virgin plastics, which have historically dominated the 3D printing industry. “The tragedy is, until now, 3D printing has relied on virgin plastics,” Professor Sahajwalla noted. “I look forward to a time when 3D printing feedstock is sourced exclusively from recycled plastics.”

UNSW Vice-President for Societal Impact, Equity, and Engagement, Professor Verity Firth, highlighted the potential for substantial change through this partnership. By combining UNSW’s cutting-edge research with Renew IT’s commercial expertise, the venture aims to address Australia’s critical environmental concerns.

Addressing E-Waste

With the rapid production and short lifecycle of electronic goods like televisions, computers, and printers, e-waste has become a mounting issue. Traditionally, much of this waste has been relegated to landfills, but the new facility offers a sustainable alternative by repurposing high-quality plastics from e-waste into new products.

“Dispatching hard plastics to landfill is not a solution that sits easily with me,” Renew IT CEO and founder James Lancaster explained. “To re-purpose that plastic into a new product that’s increasingly in demand and which we can sell at a competitive price is a beautiful solution.”

Australia generates approximately 3.4 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, of which only about 13% is recycled. Clean Up Australia estimates that about $419 million in economic value is lost yearly due to unrecovered plastic waste. Technologies like the Plastics Filament MICROfactorie™ promise to reclaim this lost value, providing financial and environmental benefits. By converting e-waste into 3D printing materials, this new facility contributes to reducing plastic waste, supporting local manufacturing, and helping organizations lower their emissions.

What do you think of this E-waste management facility in Sydney? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here for the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel. 

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