Filament recycling

Is anyone here recycling filament? I’m about to finish filling another 20 gallon recycle bin with supports, rafts, failed, prints, and bad ideas. It’s all PLA, and I’d guess 90% sakata.
I understand that recycling is something like 80:20 new:old for an effective recycling result. I’m always wondering if there’s someone in the community that’s built there own recycler or bought one of the expensive ones that’s looking for plastic donation or can repurpose this waste.
This is only the second bin I’ve filled in almost 3 years but it still stings to have to put it on the curb.

On a somewhat related note, what are you guys doing with empty rolls. I just stacked one in the closet with the rest and was surprised by how many there were.

There are a couple of guys on You tube that have built equipment for recycling and turning scrap into filament (3d print nerd might be one???). It is involved so unless you have a lot to recycle or just really want to do it ,it probably isn’t the right way to go. I haven’t heard of anyone collecting scrap but maybe there is but it would have to be completely separated into individual types of filament. The master spool system will hopefully eliminate waste spools if it takes off.

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I played with an idea for while, but the arduino coding hung me up. The hardware worked kind of, but I hung the project until
A) I use enough filament to make it worth it
B) my coding skill upgrade to a point where I can make it do what I want

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I really wish that governments would step into this area, since most business really don’t have the time to do this in a production setting. In Ottawa, there’s really no easy, convenient way to recycle your material and I dislike the thought of it going into the landfill. I’d love to get my hands on materials that are actually fully biodegradable, but once again that seems to be an area which is lacking overall. PLA is better for the most part, but it still isn’t all that environmentally friendly. What I’d ideally like to see is a recycling ecosystem which biodegradable options. That however would require much more effort on the part of both manufacturers and governments and considering that recycling isn’t high enough already it could be difficult to implement.

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the more I see in the industry the more I think any recycling system that is going to work is going to cost more than using virgin material in the end. it’s just not going to work unless the government forces it then every step will be an added cost over virgin material. For the biodegradable component, I’m also pretty convinced the only things that are bio degradable are things biology made and this idea is a red herring that’s going to make things worse in the end. that being said If I have a garbage can full of PLA then it could make sense for me to have one of the grinders and extruders to turn it into a filament roll. it would never pay in time and expense but that plastic would be better as a durable product that might last years than its the ultimate destination in landfill on the next pick up day

As far as recycling goes how would you do it. The material has to be separated by type to make new good material and it is impossible to tell the difference of pla from petg etc. by looking at it. If someone doesn’t care to separate the whole thing is ruined.

It is possible to melt all the scrap down and cast it into things or even “bar” stock to make useful items out of. That might be a better way to recycle it.

I chose to think of the whole 3D printing at home process as being far more environmentally friendly then bulk manufacturing of “things”. No large volume scrapped waste material at a factory or disposing of unused or unsold items that end up in a land fill. I recently printed a few items for the wife unit which was not only far cheaper then buying but the amount of waste produced was minimal. Far less the the waste sprue’s from injection molded parts. So 3D printing is environmentally friendly, just not perfect…yet.

True environmentally friendly material that is useful is probably never going to happen.


Part of it would involve creating new materials. There’s been quite a bit of advancement when it comes to the development of plastics. The technology does now exist to separate the pigments from the plastic itself, however I don’t believe it’s really been implemented as yet. There’s also been quite a few advances in bacteria recycling which could possibly be applied in the future. Alternatively, most garbage can burned for fuel as an energy source. Regulations could also help ensure that spool holders and other plastics be made from specific forms of plastics to simplify the recycling process overall, and adding a specific colour would make it easier for most consumers to distinguish between the types. So although there’s quite a bit of possibilities, the main issue at the moment is a lack of planning or incentives around recycling ecosystems. In most cases, it is cheaper in the short run to simply throw away the offending material, which is very short-sighted.

While 3d printing can be less wasteful, it does still depend on the use case. If every household 3d printed their items, how much energy would be consumed as a result? How much wasted material would result? These are all important factors, since it might actually produce less waste to simply manufacture those same items in a local factory with materials that are known to be recyclable.

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Mine is already separate and I used to separate colour too but I don’t anymore. if it’s mixed then it’s harder for sure and definitely not worth it


Local factories, not for a long time. How much energy and pollution is saved if we print things for ourselves instead of shipping stuff over from Asia.

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Factories have the opportunity (although they don’t always do it) to limit the amount of waste during the manufacturing process, and would have the greatest potential to recycle large quantities of similar materials. Shipping larger quantities to centralized factories once again could in theory limit the amount of pollution to a certain degree.

The problem with a single person recycling is that materials still need to be separated and then sent to a local facility that supports that form of recycling, which to be honest just isn’t implemented widely at the moment. It takes a second to throw something out but minutes to sort and recycle, so most people will see it as not being worth their while.

In the end, both are probably just as wasteful until there are incentives and a proper recycling chain to streamline the process. What we need is more innovation in both recycling techniques as well and easily recyclable filaments and products.

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Honestly recycling and carbon control etc, are just environmental band aids.

The real problem is consumption. Unlimited growth is an awesome idea. However, the aren’t Unlimited resources, and we are reaching a tipping point in that area.

With each print, we should be deciding if what we are printing is worth it, do we need it or are we just looking to fulfill a slight whim? As north Americans we have been spoiled far to long, being able to indulge whims at the drop of a hat.

For the issues of recycling and pollution to become less of a problem, it’s our mindsets that need to change, not government mandates


I am with @Benchy on this one. 3D printing is by nature not an environmentally sound option in many cases. IF I was to look into my 3d printing dream land printers would be far far more reliable and mostly self calibrating and monitoring. Why I am buying a Prusa XL to support change to a better more environmentally friendly future. Less waste from print failures at least lets hope. With a truly reliable printer where there is very few print failures, reducing waste. Plastics used (@Yarkspiri new plastic) would be from bio waste perhaps corn stalks or leaves heck grass trimmings? My pipe dream is a printer that would feed ground plastic waste and extrude directly. Imaging a grinder feed tube to a extruder that is printing a new part from the support materials and broken plastic components. You the user adds the wrong plastic it will jam the extruder and need to be clean. It is self controlling a few times it will not happen again.

All a pipe dream but hey who knows.


Dreams are how things start. The next step is making it happen, and hopefully there’s enough pressure by individuals to make it happen in the long run.

If any of you know of a biodegradable filament, please post or send me a link.

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Filamentum Nonoilen is ‘improved biodegradable.’

That said PLA is fully biodegradable as long as the correct conditions are met. My family has a digester and PLA bits break down in it just fine. Unfindable in months. My brother in law looks after it, it is very bio active and in the summer gets very hot. He says PLA plastics need heat and the right bacteria to break it down. Generally home small composers do not break it down but big ones do with little issue.

There is an argument to be made the PLA is the lest environmentally friendly plastic because it is so difficult to recycle. PETg, ABS, ASA all are easier to recycle. It is likely a better solution to recycle it that break it down.


If uncontrolled consumption is the problem then what is feeding that problem is MASSIVE overpopulation. In less then 1 lifetime (about 55 years) the worlds population has tripled and even if everyone on the planet used the minimum of everything, which they won’t and third world countries are consuming at levels near the rest of the world, the consumption will still be unsustainable. With that population level nothing we do is going to stop global warming, massive pollution levels and starvation etc. etc. etc. to name a few . In Canada there are some people that want to throw themselves and the country onto a sword to limit CO2 levels with a devastating effect on all of us. The increased levels produced in China in a couple of days would wipe out any gains we would make in years. Drive your electric cars, pay for very expensive wind and solar power instead of nuclear, freeze in the dark if you want but nothing Canada can do will change the world situation. We are a very small population in a very big pool.

Why worry about the little bit of waste that a printer makes.

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It’s about slowing things down to buy time. There are, as said previously, some good technologies that are slowly coming out, however without a more widespread implementation it will be difficult to instill the practice. Generally, people are willing to change their practices when they have a feasible alternative which maintains or improves their current quality of life. If recycling means more jobs in that country and not having to import expensive materials from abroad, then there will be an economic incentive to do so. If anything, this argument leads well into 3d printing practices if these materials can be recycled into filament and resold within the countries’ ecosystem, since this in turn creates a positive cycle which would be sustainable.

Also, yes overpopulation is definitely an issue, but that discussion doesn’t entirely fit well with the topic at hand. It’s definitely better suited for the Quora platform instead.

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I will be ordering some of this. Once I run through my stock, I’ll switch over. Thank you for posting it.


Whether it is about reversing over population or recycling waste materials it only works if everybody gets onboard and their not.

Do what you can but don’t expect miracles.


Because everyone needs to start considering what impact we make. The attitude I am only one person what difference can I make is fundamentally the issue. If every person everywhere changed that to I will make the changes I can, and reduced even a few liters of fuel a month would be a huge difference if most did… All the small things but small things in many hands will make a difference.

On a different note the new Prusa slicer has a negative function (among others), the ability to subtract one mesh from another. The build in library has the recycling symbols!


this is what would make the biggest difference. a person trying to print a new sugar bowl at home making some waste is only a small thing compared to the supply chain necessary to get a sugar bowl into a dollar store.