An NYU Green Grant helps the MakerSpace shred waste

failed 3d prints for recycling

 Failed 3D print jobs that are being collected at the MakerSpace for recycling

NYU Green Grants are awarded by the Office of Sustainability to student, faculty, and staff projects that boost the university’s environmental performance, demonstrate best practices and cleanest technologies, and foster environmental literacy.

This year the Design Lab @ NYU MakerSpace was awarded $13,572 to develop a plastic shredder and recycling system for use with the facility’s 3D printers.

“One of the main purposes of 3D printers is for rapid prototyping, which by definition involves an iterative process that results in several versions of a part or product,” MakerSpace Design Specialist Christina Lafontaine, who is spearheading the Green Grant project, explains. “What happens to the early versions that are discarded? And even if the first print turns out perfectly, the support material has to be removed, and that become waste.”

Associate Professor of Innovation, Design and Organizational Studies, Anne-Laure Fayard, who advises the Design Lab, concurs that attention must be paid to the issue. “Through the Design Lab, we want to increase awareness for sustainability issues as well as invite people to change their own behaviors. In particular, we would like them to think of ways to reduce waste, re-use materials, and embrace a circular design mindset,” she says. “The exciting thing is that a growing number of students are concerned and want to act.”

The grant will be used to gather hard data on the amount of waste generated by the printers and to then build a shredder capable of handling it, based on open-source plans from Precious Plastics, a nonprofit organization and global community that shares tools and techniques online to combat plastic waste. Two student workers will be hired to hone the plans and build the device, which will create small pellets that can then be extruded into new printing filament. The team plans to expand their program to eventually include other plastic waste, such as water bottles. In the future, they hope to share their plastic recycling model with other departments, encouraging them to build their own plastic shredders, and grow this into an NYU-wide community project.

“It is the responsibility of ethical designers and engineers to consider waste and issues of sustainability within each prototyping step,” says MakerSpace Founding Director Victoria Bill. “And while sustainability and additive manufacturing are areas of research excellence at Tandon, this very timely project will encourage all MakerSpace users to consider their design process and begin to take responsibility for the impact of their work in the world.”