Recycling 3D Prints

Hi everyone,

I was just curious if anyone knew of or had tried any of the services which offer recycling of old prints into new rolls of filament. I have been feeling a bit bad about all the waste that is produced by supports and failed prints. I have been keeping it because I don’t want to throw it out, so if it could be donated to someone who will properly recycle it and utilize it I’m all for that.

If you know of any of these services I would love to learn a bit more!

Follow up question,

Lets say I was to purchase one of these fancy filament extruders… If I offered a service where scrap filament was exchanged for extremely cheap rolls of filament, would anyone be interested in something like that.

What my idea would be is that for every 1kg of scrap that is sent in you will receive 1 roll of filament for like $5-$10. Maybe there would be something like a certain color would be $10 and some of the weird color ones would be like $5.

This is something I would definitely be interested in running, but if nobody here would be interested in a program like this then it probably isn’t worth my time/money. The filament would be of lesser quality than the stuff purchased from the store of course, but as long as that is kept in mind I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t make it work. I would probably do something for the rolls like 20% virgin material, but that will require some experimentation.

I am not really looking to make any money off of this idea, the only reason I would think of charging money for the rolls would be to cover the costs of sorting, grinding, extruding, and other costs. I really just want to make an accessible program which can be used to help with recycling filament. Most of the other programs offer somewhat crappy incentives for sending filament in.


Well I will start hoarding my scrap/failed prints for your endeavor!
Good on you Matthew!

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I’d be all for it but I would have questions regarding logistics.

How would you get the scrap material and how would you ensure that it was the same base material (ie PLA, PLA+, ABS, PETg)?

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Hey Myke,

I have a couple ideas regarding this, I think the expectation would have to be set that we can’t get 100% perfect every time.

I was thinking over what the best way to separate materials would be, the best idea I could come up with would be that everything gets thrown into an oven of sorts, could even just be a small cheap toaster oven, then it is heated up to the gtt of PLA. Once it gets to temp then it pop it out and everything that squishes is some sort of PLA, anything that stays rigid would almost certainly not be PLA. I really don’t think it would be worth it to try and sort out the PLA and the PLA+, just mix them all together and call it PLA±.

For separating the ABS and PETG the only good way I can think of would be testing with acetone vapor, if it starts to melt then it is ABS, and if nothing happens then it would be something else.

Past this separating the PETG out from the other materials such as nylon, PC, ASA, I think that would have to be a temperature test. I kind of doubt I would get much of that in however, maybe ASA, not sure.

For getting the scrap material it would probably be either dropped off or shipped, the buyer would pay shipping to me and then I would pay shipping for the spool back or it would be subsidized or something like that. And the rest of the shipping price would be included in the cost of the spool. I think that sounds somewhat reasonable.

If you have any other ideas or suggestions or if you see any problems with my proposal please let me know. Of course this is still all very hypothetical at the moment, with starting university in the fall I will have to see how much free time (and spare cash) I actually have on hand.


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I certainly would be all for something like this. I mainly use PLA+ but if I was to use some other material I would not have a problem sorting it on my end.

My only concern where I don’t live close to Hamilton is freight cost. Any Idea what freight cost per KG would be?

This is a really good idea. There are a lot of logistical hurdles sadly. Separating materials is one. Abs in PetG does not work. They also are hard to separate.

Let’s assume you can get it sorted. You buy a small scale crusher like a felful and extruder and winder 10K ? Guessing here.

Will you have enough material to run a supply of spools?

How much virgin material will you add?

If you run short on used materials will you make up the difference with virgin?

How much loss will there be with incompatible material? How many jams?

These are all good questions and have often ended with sad truth. Recycling is complicated.

I take my waste to my local company that makes filament. They are very fussy over what they take. I fully separate mine. Red pla all in one, black in another. Colors and materials. This ocd behavior demonstrates a commitment, that the type of material is likely also separate.

They make recycled materials but it is very small usually in house waste only as it is important it be reliable and print well.

I applaud the attempt. I really hope it works. Please give very serious thoughts to how you will deal with some of the questions posed.

I am desperately hoping someone somewhere can sort this quagmire out. I imagine a world where a 3D printer just works and requires little skill and waste is dropped into hoppers and when there is enough the machine automatically makes and rolls a new spool. When this day arrives we will really see at home production of items commonly rather than an oddity.

I hope you can succeed. I’m interested if you can. I don’t actually produce a lot of waste. I try hard to not need supports. I calibrate the printers to death, and work hard to finalize designs before they are printed.

Empty spools are a real pain I produce a lot of them.

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This is a great idea and a great project, what attracts people to this project is the recycling of waste and the low price of new filaments, but I think it will cost you a lot of effort and money, you may need some official or third party business grants. I am 100% support this project, go for it!

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Thanks for the input, it is really nice to be able to bounce some of these ideas off other people and get input.

You raise some really good points, I have been thinking about the material conundrum over the last week a lot. I agree with you that it will be really important to try and compile a backlog of material in order to meet demands. The last thing I want to have happen is to suddenly have a whole backlog of production that I can’t fulfil.

One idea that I thought of was to do something like put a recycle bin out in the storefront here that people could recycle their prints in. If people knew that we were doing proper recycling of parts I’m sure people would be interested in recycling over waste. This could potentially carry out into other stores in the area. The hope would be that if enough people donate without actually trying to get a spool back that I would be able to have some backlog of material.

My hope would be to create material that is good enough that you can print it without issues, but it would definitely not be top of the line stuff. I figure that with somewhere around 20% virgin material and a couple of filter passes it could probably be decently good quality. Another thing I was considering would be hitting all the parts with an ultrasonic cleaner to help to get any dirt off the part before it goes in the grinder.

There would definitely have to be an understanding that the color/ quality of the rolls will vary roll to roll, in an ideal world every roll would be able to have similar qualities. But in reality that is a bit of a pipe dream though, the hope would be that as long as there is an understanding of that from the buyer it should be ok. But I do also understand that there will be some rolls that will be bad or some customers that won’t be happy, and that is another issue which I need to try and figure out.

I definitely won’t be starting this until I am sure that I will have the time and money to take it on, I hope that will be sooner rather than later (c’mon lotario!!). But I also want to make sure that I don’t take it on until I am sure that I have everything figured out logistically. My real hope with this project is not to become rich or to maximize profits, but rather to try and set a new standard for how these recycling programs work. I wonder if it would be worth me reaching out to some of the big manufacturers of materials and see if there would be any sort of info that I could pull from them. Or if they would be interested in partnering.

I had not considered loss due to jammed extrusions or things like that. Hopefully if the jam was minor I could still get part of a spool off which could be sold as b-stock or something like that. But that would very much be a case by case basis kind of thing. Theoretically the spool up to the point of failure should be good as well, so it could be re-ground and extruded.

Once again I am very thankful for everyone’s support and discussion around this topic, it will certainly be a big endeavor if I decide to go down that road. Hopefully it will be a big endeavor that will be worth it in the long run though.


Mathew I really hope you can overcome some of the complexities. I hope it isn’t an exercise in frustration. I watched a real attempt at true recycling at my work fail (more that once) the root cause is human nature. We are lazy, not everyone all the time but enough of the time batches of collected recycling has something that doesn’t belong. In my area pet bottles are recycling but the caps and rings are garbage. No matter how much signage education we did there were pet bottles with lids.

No matter what you do it is inevitable you will get something not what you want mixed in. There needs to be a good way to separate it all. That is easier said than done.

There will be as you surmise hair, dust, heaven forbid oils all mixed in even if you get all the plastic separated correctly. Perhaps a U/S cleaner with some heavy duty detergent will rid much of the organic out and separate dust from plastic. This is adding time energy and sadly cost.

My worry is by the time all is said and done a lower quality, random colour filament will not be lower cost.

I hope I am wrong, please prove me so! I feel the whole industry needs to resolve this somehow. Maybe universally adding a UV due for each different plastic formulation. I certainly don’t know. Plastic can be fairly easy to recycle if you can keep it pure. When different types get mixed it gets more difficult.

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You are absolutely right,

I remember going and taking a trip of the recycling plant when I was a kid, and at the end of the tour they went “and here is all the recycling that we couldn’t recycle for various reasons, we just take it to the dump”.

In any case I expect there to still be waste generated, if I can mitigate some of it then I guess that would be mission accomplished. One thing is for certain though, this is definitely not something I want to rush into. I doubt it will take less than a year to get everything running smoothly, and that is on top of university and life in general.

I am curious for the mean time to start some small scale tests to see if there is a reasonable way to separate materials. If anyone has any suggestions I am all ears!

I think my suggestion would be more complex. I lived in Germany they do better recycling than most.

Firstly design something useful that can be poured in a basic mold. Maybe (as my basement flooded this month) a solid plastic block with a simple hole in the middle (foot, stopper, or? )

I would then accept only pla. Much like Germans have the consumer do the separation.

Black and dark grey pla bin one, whites and light grey in two, blues in a third, reds in a different, ect.

When you look and see black things in your white bin it all becomes loose casting.

It will visibly show when you have a suspicious lot. Maybe provide containers to the user. I am not sure. Poor solution.

Hmm I do like this idea a lot,

If we start with only taking a couple colors and keep it simple then we can start to limit some of the issues right off the bat. Then once we have our processes moving more smoothly we can start increasing the production rates/ materials.

Just make sure not to bite off more than I can chew!

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It may increase intreats too, dark recycled color, and lighter. Not just what ever color it is.

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