3D Printing or serious waste management? Both, of course
3D printing must minimize both the plastic not reused today, AND the one produced tomorrow.
Since the first years in which it became affordable for the masses, personal 3D printing has been feared as “Just Proliferating of More Plastic Crap”. Today, we already have recycler’s guides to 3D printing and DIY, Open Source answers like the RecycleBot that create 3-D printer filament from waste plastic and natural polymers:
These are all isolated, initial steps. Good and needed, but very far from being a solution to anything.
The next two steps
We sure need complete waste management services that include 3D printing, considering it a part of the solution. But before that, we need never forget how 3D printing, like any other technology, could “help poor countries as well as rich ones” in this age.
The thing to never forget is that 3D printing will help us a lot if we use it to learn and solve real world problems that already exist (like, you know, minimizing plastic waste AND future production). This is a good example:
Plastic bottles shredded, melted and then fed to a 3D printer to print a plastic vessel. Great as experiment and learning tool. Wonderful if people, who are already drowning in plastic waste somewhere, actually, urgently need small vessels like that. Much less great if it obscures simpler solutions, or becomes an excuse to keep making superfluous plastic objects.