Wealth from Waste: Protoprint’s Fair-Trade 3D Printer Filament

Protoprint is a social enterprise based in India that empowers urban waste pickers with the technology to convert waste plastic. The organization markets the filament worldwide as a cost-competitive, fair-trade option to virgin filament while simultaneously using it locally to supply affordable 3D-printing services to students and professionals in India.

Over 12.5 million short tons of plastic is consumed yearly by India and nearly all the segregation of the plastic happens at the dump site, where waste pickers sift through rubbish, separating the plastics from organic waste. They sell the plastic to middlemen junk dealers but receive an exceptionally low sum due to their significant work. After spending through waste, many live in impoverished states and of these hardworking people make less than $ 1.

The Flakerbot is a streamlined machine that uses a rotating 5HP shredder to ‘ the HDPE bottles we put through it to flake’. The RefilBot is a compact extruding mechanism that works on the rotating screw conveyor to transport the flakes before extruding it to 3mm filament through a ‘cooking’ procedure that melts it,. Their machines are made to be low cost, safe, and simple-to-use to be able to better incorporate with the waste pickers current supply chain.

Protoprint’s technology empowers waste pickers to convert the HDPE plastic they collect into 3D printer filament. By working with waste picker co-operatives in India, Protoprint sets filament generation facilities at dump sites up and trains the waste pickers to use the technology, enabling them to create 3D printer filament in the plastic they collect and transforming them into micro-entrepreneurs. This permits them to bring in over 15 times more for the exact same amount of plastic, empowering them both fiscally and socially.