What 3D printing material is best for the planet? PLA, ABS or something else?

What 3D printing material is best for the planet? PLA, ABS or something else?

I worry because printers are becoming more mainstream, but still produce large amounts of scrap filament and failed prints.


For now , until we find something better PLA is still best : while the recycling /composting part is still a bit unclear, it is starch based unlike ABS, so more future proof and likely to be more eco friendly…(I would love to know more about the sdditives used in Pla though…)

PLA definitely has the potential but we are not really there yet. It can be composted in industrial composters that can accept PLA but it can kill the bacteria used in other facilities More and more cities are switching over to be able to compost PLA but we are nowhere near a universal solution. So yes, for now PLA still creates a lot of waste product but at least it is not dependent on fossil fuels for its production and a lot of it is made domestically.

The impact we have with all the 3d printing in the world is not even a smidgen of what a abs-based injection molding machine puts out for a company. In other words: your worrying makes little, to no impact whatsoever.

I wonder about that experimental MDF-like Laywoo-D3 filament that’s made of “40% recycled wood” (what’s the other 60%? What kind of binding does it use? etc.)

@ThantiK While I understand your point I can’t say I subscribe to your logic: “other guys are polluting way more, why should I care whether I do or not” …

@Sean_Bires_Renzu good question, I was wondering that too! It would be really good to look into the actual composition and origin of the various types of filament. (IF and that is a big if, these things are not “trade secrets”)

@Mark_Moissette_ckaos actually it would be more like “why should I care about trying to solve a problem that has little to no impact on the actual problem at hand (plastic waste)”

If I wanted to solve pollution, I wouldn’t worry about a kid riding on a gas scooter, I’d regulate the output of the ancient cargo ships that use waste oil and dump tons of c02 into the atmosphere. (reference: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1229857/How-16-ships-create-pollution-cars-world.html)

A simple word for that would be “Priorities”. Worrying about the output of 3D printers is way overprioritizing something that has likely no impact on the environment at all. Especially considering that PLA is likely not much better than ABS anyways in regards to pollution/contamination, and seeing that both can be recycled.

ABS and PLA appear to both be infinitely recyclable, if you make the effort to do so, so to figure out for sure you’d have to look at what’s released in their production and how much energy is involved in it.

…but if you take the time to recycle them back into filament and reuse your mistakes/broken bits/no longer needed prints they’re functionally identical in terms of sustainability.

I have to side with Anthony on this. I’ve seen a hobbyist injection moulding machine burn through more ABS in 2 seconds than I waste on my printer in 6 months. They just jet a massive blob of plastic out when they want to clean the nozzle.

Did you consider whittling?

Either ABS or PLA could be a net gain if what you print makes the world better somehow, (like fixing something you’d have thrown out, or by displacing some gizmo that would have been shipped across an ocean on a bunker-fuel burning ship.)

On the other hand, there’s things like http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:44464

I think that what ever insignificant contribution I can do is better than nothing. The main point being that if everybody at least try a little, then someday it will trickle into the corporate world and we will eventually get good substitutes for fosile fuels.

There is not a one-true-plastic. For that matter, the winner in 20 years probably will not be FDM.

i am interested in a duel print head configuration. make the raft water soluble and put the whole print into the dish washer, just be sure to turn off the heat. Failed prints go into the filabot. no muss, no fuss, no waste.

I think the Fila-bot is the answer to your question. Waste plastic / failed parts can be fed back into a machine and re-moulded into filament. In fact, you don’t need to purchase filament so much with one since any re-cyclable plastic object can be turned into filament.

It was on kickstarter a while back, I’m hoping its getting closer to release now…

@Morgan_Parkinson … filabot…really? – Try the lyman filament extruder, or literally ANY of the other projects. Filabot got all that funding, haven’t released anything, it’s been a year, and tons of people have passed them.

Obviously my finger is far removed from the pulse… cheers for the heads up!