Every single thing we do affects the environment in one way or another and 3D printing is no exception. As people become more aware of the impact we are having on the planet with our carbon footprint, the more we are noticing the other things that are contributing to climate change as well.
The objective of this article is to hopefully educate you a little bit on how to be more environmentally friendly with 3d printing.
Before discussing ways in which you can be more eco-friendly when you 3d print, we must first look at what it is about 3d printing that can be potentially harmful to our planet.
Waste- Waste is the main way 3d printers contribute to global warming. When one of our prints goes wrong, our first thought is to just chuck it in the garbage and forget about it. Now think about the number of people that mess up their 3d prints and how much of that goes straight to the rubbish bin.
Energy Use- 3d printers consume a lot of energy. A lot of energy is required for them to do any little job they need. For example, just turning the printer on uses roughly the same amount of power as it would if your computer was in sleep mode.
Toxic Chemicals- Every time you print something with your 3d printer, it releases toxic chemicals into the air. The melting of different plastics releases different toxins in the air. ABS is notorious for releasing a bad odour when it melts.
What You Can Do to Be More Environmentally Friendly
Now that we have covered the key factors of 3d printers and their contribution to climate change, its now time to cover some of the ways in which you can be more environmentally friendly the next time that you 3d print any kind of model.
Use Biodegradable Plastics
While they might not be as good for the environment as people say, they do however breakdown quicker than normal plastics. Try using biodegradable plastics such as PLA. PLA is great because it can break down in 1-6 months. Whereas other plastics can take up to 1000 years.
You could even help reduce the mass size of landfills by going for a water-soluble plastic such as PVA.
HIPS is another good plastic that dissolves and is great for supporting material.
Build Some Sort of Enclosure for Your Printer
Air pollution is a massive problem that we as humans have contributed to greatly. It comes as no surprise that the fumes that are being emitted by 3d printers during the printing process are adding to this issue. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce air pollution, then maybe you should consider building a casing or some kind of enclosure for your 3d printer to keep the fumes from escaping.
Pinshape has a great step by step guide on how to build your own enclosure for your 3d printer.
Consider Using Plant Based Filaments
Another way in which we can lower our carbon emissions, reduce our carbon footprint and produce something that will break down faster than plastic is to use plant-based filaments such as hemp or even PLA which is derived from cornstarch and sugarcane. An upside to printing with plant-based filaments is that you won’t be producing loads of toxic chemicals as you would if you were to use a material that isn’t so environmentally friendly like ABS, for example.
Print Useful Objects
This one might sound like a no brainer, but there are so many people out there who are printing things that have actually no point but to be pushed away on a shelf to gather dust.
Instead of printing pointless objects, why not consider printing something that will be of use to you? Take some ideas from here and I’m sure you’ll find something that won’t be a waste of plastic.
Recycle Wasted Filament
Instead of throwing all your messed up prints, why not recycle it? You can purchase 3d filament recyclers which take your ruined 3d print and transform it into some new, reusable filament. This saves you both time and lessens the burden on the environment.