Idea of the Year
In 2016, Carlos Toxtli submitted the idea receiving the highest rating over the last year:
"3D printer that consumes supermarket plastic bags"
It received a rating of 3.0, or Excellent, on the scale of 1-3. Here is his comment:
Description: Only in California, 53,000 tons of plastic bags are thrown away every year. Considering that each bag takes close to 100 years to decompose, it represents a significant pollution problem, and it tends to grow year by year. 3D printers are devices that are able to build tridimensional objects, and most of the commercial objects that we can buy in stores can be printed using free models available on the internet. Most of the 3D printers use mainly 2 kinds of plastic: PLA and ABS. The plastic bags that supermarkets commonly offer are made from HDPE plastic, and it's estimated that complex objects can be printed with the plastic bags commonly collected during a month. The process to convert plastic bags to a plastic cartridge is not very complex; it requires a special extrusion mechanism that can be easily adapted to existing 3D printers, and respecting the proper temperature for the material.
Implementation: The ideal way to implement this idea is to get these existing generic cheap DIY 3D printer kits available on the internet and adapting the special extrusion mechanism for HDPE and PET (common PET bottles). The ideal implementation should include a sensibilization campaign that makes people aware of the problem and lets them know that they are part of the solution. The best approach could be that the supermarkets can own this device and incentivize people to use it by giving them a catalog listing the products that they can print for free and the total amount of bags required. This can help in two ways: the supermarket can attract more clients, and people can feel that they are doing something good to make this world better, and they can bring home a nice and "freshly baked" object. My motivation was that at home we were aware of plastic bag pollution, but there was no local initiative to recycle them or prevent them from being discharged to landfills.
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