Tethers Unlimited, a company that develops advanced technologies to enable transformative capabilities and dramatic cost savings for special missions, has been awarded a NASA contract to develop and deliver a Positrusion Recycler to sterilize and recycle plastic waste such as packaging materials, utensils, trays and food storage containers into high-quality 3D filament.
Dirty plastic dinnerware will ultimately be turned into satellite components, replacement parts, and astronaut tools via a high-quality 3D printer, creating the first “closed-cycle” in-space manufacturing system. The recycler will be combined with a 3D printer in a payload for the Space Station dubbed the Refabricator, or as it’s known around the laboratory of Tethers Unlimited, “recycling sporks in space.”
As it is mentioned in the HeraldNet, on a manned mission to Mars, “the astronauts must bring everything they need with them,” according Jesse Cushing, principal investigator for the Refabricator effort. “Due to the incredibly high cost of launching mass to Mars, carrying every tool or replacement part that they might possibly need simply isn’t affordable. The Refabricator will demonstrate the ability to recycle plastic parts and waste to make new parts and tools on-demand.”
The process also helps minimize exposure of astronauts to harmful microbes because utensils and food containers are not re-used but sterilized and recycled, said Robert Hoyt, CEO of Tethers and its division, Firmamentum., which concentrates on in-space construction and manufacturing services for a “robust in-space economy.”
According the Environmental Leader website, this closed-loop system will save NASA money — it costs about $10,000 for every pound of weight launched into orbit — and reduce “intergalactic waste.”
The great potential 3D printers for recycling plastics has been already explored in Dar es Salaam city, Tanzania’a capital, that produces 400 tonnes of plastic waste everyday which are neither collected nor recycled, contributing to unhealthy environment. A pilot programme called ReFab is exploring ways of using plastic waste to power entrepreneurship and development using 3D printers in Tanzania.
Another interesting project has been developed by Voodoo manufacturers, a software-optimized 3D-printing manufacturing company that produces about 200 pounds of plastic waste each month. All Voodoo’s printing requires filament, the ink for 3D printers, and much of that filament is made of plastic. To reduce its waste and resources used in the 3D printing process, Voodoo teamed up with Filabot to recycle plastic waste into 3D filament. Over the past eight months, this partnership has allowed Voodo to recycle more than 600 pounds of plastic.You can have a look of the Filabot’s zero waste approach at the video below