3D printing has made inroads into just about every industry, and is growing within almost every nation on the planet. It’s a remarkable technology, with the ability to do more than just make it possible to make things at home, or advance prototyping.
It has the capability to dramatically benefit humankind itself in a number of ways. However, one company wants to take things a step or two further, and benefit those with no connection to 3D printing at all.
Reflow has big things in mind.
Reflow Aims to Combat Poverty While Greening Up the Planet
Reflow is a new startup based in the Netherlands, and they want to make big changes in the way things are done. That doesn’t apply only to the 3D printing or design process.
No, they’re aiming for something different.
Currently, there are an estimated 40 million people in developing nations around the world who survive day to day by picking through waste in urban areas. They sort, shift, stack and collect recyclable materials, and then earn a pittance for their efforts, living a life of want and poverty amidst the modern world’s plenty, with most of them earning $1.50 per day or less.
That’s four times less per day than most of us spend on a single cup of coffee.
Reflow will turn the tables on this situation. One of the materials waste pickers collect is PET plastic, most often in the form of plastic bottles, but also in other shapes and forms, all of which provide Reflow with what they need.
What Is PET?
PET is the most common type of plastic used today, and you’ll find it everywhere from water bottles to clothing fibers and even product packaging. About 30% of the world’s production is actually used for plastic bottles.
The rest of it is used in various other applications where polyester (the common name for the material), with 60% going to make synthetic fibers.
The beauty of PET is that it is easily recyclable, and can be turned into many other things, including 3D printer filament. In fact, PET is one of the most easily recycled plastics because it is so prominently used in the bottled water and soft drink industries.
How It Will Work
Reflow’s plan is this: the company will convert the recyclable PET plastic collected by waste pickers around the world, and transform that into high-quality 3D print filament through an open source system. For their efforts, waste pickers will be paid up to 20 times what they currently earn, which would truly make an enormous difference in their daily lives.
According to the company, their goal is “to significantly improve the lives of over 150 million waste pickers worldwide who earn less than $1.50 per day, and to create a global, socially responsible 3D printing community.”
Reflow isn’t stopping there, though. The company plans to reinvest 25% of their profits to set up local manufacturing capabilities.
It’s an ambitious goal, but no more so than many other efforts within the industry, and if successful, it would have ramifications for poor waste pickers not only in the Netherlands, but worldwide. It would also have a serious impact on landfills around the world by removing tons of plastics that would otherwise take up space and putting them to another use.
Again, it’s just one more way that 3D printing is set to make a dramatic difference in not only the world around us, but in the quality of life we enjoy.
Reflow’s plan hasn’t been put into motion just yet. The startup needs a helping hand to get the ball rolling.
To do that, they’ll be announcing a Kickstarter very soon with the intention of selling their first 5,000 rolls of filament. This will be the first step in their plan, but not the last.
You can keep up with Reflow as the company moves toward launching their Kickstarter project by signing up on their website, which you can find right here.