If you’re familiar with 3D printing, you know that it’s easy to generate plastic waste — especially if you’re a prolific 3Der. When you combine failed prints, re-designs, used support material, and even printed objects you simply no longer need or want, it’s not uncommon to start building up a collection of plastic waste that you’re not quite sure what to do with. And what happens when 3D printing reaches mass adoption? Combined with the already excessive amount of plastic trash that we generate every day, the amount of plastic waste is a cause of pollution that needs to be addressed before the consequences become even more severe. Closed Loop Plastics, or CLP, is getting ahead of the problem with a solution for recycling old plastic and turning it into reusable 3D-printing filament.
We caught up with the Closed Loop Plastics team on Senior Design Day, where the startup’s founding members Will Amos and Aldrin Lupisan displayed their senior project in preparation for their graduation from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine.
CLP started out as “Renew 3D Print,” a student project overseen by Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Professor Mark Walter and Art Professor Jesse Colin Jackson. As environmental engineering students, Will and Aldrin wanted to find a way to make 3D printing a more sustainable practice.
The Closed Loop Plastics system starts with a grinder that progressively shreds used plastic into small pieces until it is suitable for use in the system’s built-in extruder where it is formed into usable 3D printer filament. To achieve true sustainability, the system is run by solar-powered batteries.
What does the future hold for Closed Loop Plastics?
Now that Will and Aldrin have graduated, they are devoting themselves to converting Renew 3D Print into a full-fledged startup. They are continuing to refine the system to make it fully automated, easier to use, and more effective at recycling a larger range of materials.
The system is designed for installation in organizations, such as universities, businesses, and makerspaces.
“The United States wastes approx 60 trillion pounds of plastic every year,” Will explained. “And so that’s billions of dollars lost in material costs. So we can actually, using this system, recover a lot of the material that we use — and help save the planet in the process. That plastic won’t go into landfills, less will go into the ocean and we’ll also have less plastic polluting our waterways and our land.”