Tightening the loop on the circular economy: Coupled distributed recycling and manufacturing with recyclebot and RepRap 3-D printing

Shan Zhong, Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, USA
Joshua M. Pearce, Michigan Technological University

© 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.09.023

Abstract

A promising method of enhancing the circular economy is distributed plastic recycling. In this study plastic waste is upcycled into 3-D printing filament with a recyclebot, which is an open source waste plastic extruder. The recyclebot is combined with an open source self-replicating rapid prototyper (RepRap) 3-D printer, to enable post-consumer ABS plastic filament from computer waste to be further upcycled into valuable consumer products pre-designed in the digital commons. The total electrical energy consumption for the combined process is monitored and an economic evaluation is completed. The coupled distributed recycling and manufacturing method for complex products reduces embodied energy by half, while reducing the cost of consumer products to pennies. This economic benefit provides an incentive for consumers to both home recycle and home manufacture, which tightens the loop on the circular economy by eliminating waste associated from transportation and retail. It is clear from the results that waste plastic can be significantly upcycled at the individual level using this commons-based approach. This tightening of the loop of the circular economy benefits the environment and sustainability as well as the economic stability of consumers/prosumers.