This page may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of these links I will make a small commission.
How to Recycle Your 3D Printed Scraps and Waste Filament
Every 3D printer will know that it’s easy to grow an extensive collection of 3D prints that you no longer want.
Rather than throwing away these old prints in the trash, here are a few ideas for more environmentally responsible ways of reusing them.
Make a Plastic Plate from 3D Printer Scraps
Get a metal plate or bowl, like the ones you use camping, and fill it with your 3D printer scraps. Then place it in your kitchen oven and heat it very gently until the scraps melt and start to pool together.
You can then take a second metal plate and push it on top, squeezing the plastic between the two plates which act as a mold. Take the assembly out of the oven and cool, or dunk into a bucket of cold water and you will then have a beautiful new plastic plate made entirely of scrap plastic.
If you select the colors of your scraps carefully, you can come up with some beautiful patterns and effects and create an entirely unique new object that’s great for use around the home as a decorative item or a nice place to keep your trinkets.
Make a Plastic Billet for CNC Machining
If you have enough of one type of plastic, you can put all the scraps on a cookie sheet or bread pan and melt them at a very low temperature in your kitchen oven. This will make a solid bar or billet of plastic that you can then machine or carve into something else.
If you use different colored plastics, then you can create some beautiful and unique patterns that will be revealed as you start machining through the plastic.
Filabot Filament Maker
It’s expensive, but a machine like the Filabot can turn all of your old 3D printed plastics back into entirely usable filament!
At the moment you will need to find a way to turn your scrap into small pellets that the FIlabot extruder can accept. But Filabot is working on a new machine called the ‘Reclaimer’ which you feed your scrap into, and it will break it down into small pieces that can be fed into the Extruder.
Their entry-level extruder, the EX2 can turn pellets of ABS, PLA, HIPS, PC, PS, Ultem, and PEEK into filament. You can also choose which filament diameter you want from 1mm up to 4.5mm, including the standard 1.75 and 2.85mm sizes.
If you’re feeling very adventurous, you can build your own filament extruder by 3D printing the 63 parts required to make Hugh Lyman’s open source design. When assembled together with the approximately 31 other parts including an auger bit and some gear motors you will have a fully working filament extruder!
Scrap ABS can be combined with Acetone to create a ‘slurry.’ You can use this as a very useful glue for bonding ABS and PLA parts together as well as a general filler for cracks and holes.
PLA (polylactic acid) filament is compostable. However, you can’t just dig a hole and bury it and wait for it to disappear. For PLA to biodegrade, it must be composted at high heat with the correct moisture levels. These conditions are normal for industrial and city compost schemes but would require a bit of effort to work in your garden compost bin.
As more companies tend towards using biodegradable plastics in their packaging, it’s likely that PLA composting will become more widespread. I hope so!
Some city recycling centers will accept ABS and PLA. At the moment there aren’t many, but check your local site, and you may be in luck.
As more companies start using PLA in their packaging, it’s likely that PLA recycling will become more widespread. So perhaps one of the best things you can do is hold on to it if you can store it safely in anticipation of being able to recycle it one day.
So, there are a few ideas that will hopefully make you think twice before throwing you next print failure straight in the trash!
If you want to read more about how to do even more for the environment by using the most eco-friendly filaments, then check out my article to the most eco-friendly filaments.