Sustainability and feasibility assessment of distributed E-waste recycling using additive manufacturing in a Bi-continental context

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The most abundant e-waste plastic is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which is not typically processed by municipal programs and is equally one of the most popular 3-D printing filaments. This makes ABS a prime candidate for the distributed recycling for additive manufacturing (DRAM) approach, which has the potential to increase recycling rates by providing economic incentive for consumers to recycle. For DRAM to be globally applicable, this study investigates the role of the ABS e-waste source and processes to fabricate 3-D printing filament and printed components in both Australia and North America. The study used two different open source extruder systems to convert e-waste into 3D printer filament and for material quality to be assessed through standardized tensile and compression testing. Results revealed a modest reduction in mechanical properties compared to virgin ABS, highlighting the potential for recycled e-waste ABS for consumer and industrial uses. We also show DRAM can significantly reduce 3-D printer filament cost, however, carbon emissions from conversion underscored the need for technical efficiency improvements in electricity generating between countries. Finally, the variations in the properties of the ABS e-waste indicates the need for appropriate labeling of materials in order to advance recycling.

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Additive Manufacturing