Concept: The US-based polyolefins and biopolymer producing company Braskem has partnered with Vartega, a leading recycler of advanced materials to launch a 3D printing filament recycling program. The duo aims to provide an end-to-end solution for 3D printing customers by leveraging recycling capabilities and plastic waste elimination.

Nature of Disruption: Initially, the customers of this product send their scrap filament, failed prints, and support material to Vartega instead of sending it to the landfill. The customers are responsible for transporting the scrap during the initial rollout of the program and then Vartega collects the scrap material from regional collection hubs. After receiving the scrap is then sorted and mechanically recycled, blended, and extruded to produce new carbon-fiber-reinforced polypropylene pellets. These pellets may either be used as a pellet feed in additive manufacturing (AM) machines or made into filament for traditional fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printing. The 3D printed filament is produced from 100% recycled carbon fiber and has a similar performance level when compared with virgin carbon fiber. It provides solutions for recycled products by eliminating plastic waste. This filament also provides mechanical and thermal properties, low warpage, and enables users to 3D print lightweight and rigid parts for high-end applications like automotive, aerospace, nautical, and sporting goods. These filaments are of 1.75- and 2.85-millimeter diameters to fit for 3D printer applications.

Outlook: Plastic plays an important role in society and programs like 3D Printing Filament Recycling allows plastic to play their role in innovations ensuring sustainable solutions. With the support of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) through its Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity (RREO) competitive grant program, Vartega is planning for other investments in plastic composites recycling infrastructure in Colorado. The company is also planning to recycle the materials from turbine blades and bicycle manufacturing in the future. By 2040, Braskem is aiming to reuse, recycle or recover the plastic packaging completely.

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