Proving that ocean garbage is anything but trash, a Canadian company has built the world’s first-ever 3D-printed item made entirely from recycled ocean plastic. The Recycling Council of British Columbia recently gave Vancouver-based The Plastic Bank its Innovation Award for creating a 3D-printed wrench from plastic filaments made from waste collected from the southern Alaskan coastline. Using a model called Social Plastic’ that rewards people for keeping natural areas clean, Plastic Bank is dedicated to making waste plastic a currency that people in poverty around the world can use to make their lives better with little more than an entrepreneurial spirit.
Often referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the North Pacific Gyre, a circulating vortex of plastic and other kinds of human refuse circulates over a vast area in the North Pacific Ocean between North America and Southeast Asia.
A video released by The Plastic Bank shows a large crew of people heading out to a beach on the southern coast of Alaska and cleaning up all the waste plastic deposited on the shore by the churning garbage current. The plastic is transported out by Zodiac and brought to the University of British Columbia (UBC) where it’s ground up and turned into a thin filament used for 3D printing. A printer at the company’s head office then uses the recycled ocean plastic to build a small, gray wrench.
“The completed ‘3D Printing from Ocean Plastic’ pilot project is a huge step forward for our mission to provide the world’s poor with the ability to exchange plastic waste for access to 3D printing and life improvement opportunities,” says Shaun Frankson, co-founder of The Plastic Bank.
“This is something we’ve been working towards from the beginning, and to be able to make this announcement this soon is truly remarkable,” adds CEO, David Katz. “We are extremely proud of our efforts and those of our partners at UBC.
The company is currently in the process of opening its first location in Lima, Peru, where both poverty and garbage are plentiful, and only two per cent of plastic is recycled.