Additive manufacturing is inherently more eco friendly than traditional subtractive methods, however, like all production methods it is not without its flaws. For years, we have been troubled by the waste that is generated from the FDM process. Over time, an FDM printer will generate waste: failed prints, support material, prototype iterations and filament snippets, all adds up.

Give your waste a new life

Finally, we have a solution, enter 3DTomorrow’s recycling program. With this program, we will help our filament users reduce their carbon footprint through the re-use of their print waste. Our filament users will have a place where they can send their waste, which will then undergo a transformation process and continue its life as another product. This transformation process will be carried out by our partner eco-warriors, a range of plastics creatives who are able to produce innovative and unique plastic products from waste.

Our research has shown that although there are a number of small businesses, projects and individuals that would be suitable to receive print waste, there is currently no way for this waste to be provided in a consistent and streamlined manner. For the smaller projects, they cannot cope with large shipments of print waste, they simply do not have the space to store unexpected packages. For the larger projects, there is the opposite problem of an inconsistent supply, since it is difficult to plan if you cannot guarantee some level of supply repeatability. 3DTomorrow will act as an intermediary to solve both these problems, we will provide storage free of charge and donate the print waste to suitable partners at a level they can manage.

In the future, Callum will showcase some of these eco-warriors over on YouTube, if interested you can subscribe now to be notified once these are published.

Print waste recyclingRecycled PLA coaster

Send your print waste to 3DTomorrow

So how can you get started? We’ve outlined the steps of the program below:

  1. Collect & colour sort waste as you print. This can be anything from support material to prototype iterations. We can only accept waste from 3DTomorrow filament at this time.
  2. Box it up. Use any old box, we’re not picky on sizes.
  3. Send us an email to arrange your return.
  4. We’ll hold your material & distribute via our eco-warrior partners when they need it.

The aim of our print waste recycling program is to reduce the carbon footprint of both 3DTomorrow and you as a customer. We actually care about the environment, so naturally feel responsible for any waste that may arise from the use of our products. Our print waste recycling & spool return program means that you will only be left with great prints and no waste. No other filament manufacturer offers a scheme like this.

Whether you use 1 spool a week or 100, this program is designed that everyone can participate. Naturally, we do have some guidelines to ensure that participation not only maximise environmental benefit, but also that makes it a feasible service for us to provide.

  • Colour sorted waste. Please make every effort to ensure the majority of the print waste is colour sorted, e.g. Zinc Yellow in one bag, Ruby Red in another. Our partners are able to create more attractive items when they have control over the colours, if everything is mixed in together you end up with brown, which is not ideal! If you sort as you go, this is no extra effort, so we would recommend doing so. We also understand that there may be a small section of unsorted waste alongside that which you have sorted and that is fine to include. Examples of acceptable unsorted waste would be extrusion priming, dual colour prints, prints generated from our changeover spools, or smaller sections of support removal that have got mixed in with other colours. Important: materials must never be mixed in a bag, even if the they are the same colour. In other words, if you change from PETG to PLA, this nozzle prime will contains both PETG and PLA will have to be discarded.
  • Package frequency. Transport has an environmental cost, so it is important that packages are only sent after a period of sufficient waste collection. For small volume users, the wastage generated will be at a lower rate and as such, it could be advisable to collect for a number of months before sending. Example use cases are discussed below for different volumes of print usage.
    • Hobbyist, light to medium print usage. 1 – 6 packages per year.
      • Royal Mail Second Class Small Parcel: £3, max weight of 2kg and dimensions of 45 x 35 x 16cm. This would be the smallest package that we could deem viable to accept and imagine even intermittent print users would generate at least this much waste within a year.
      • Courier Package: ≈£7-8, max weight up to 20kg and dimensions around 50x50x50cm. If you think that you would fill up the above option pretty quickly, couriers available from sites such as parcel2go generally provide very reasonable rates without an account.
    • High volume consumers and business. 2 – 12 packages per year. Please use carbon neutral shipments where possible.
      • Courier Package: Above option, with frequency up to one per month.
      • Multiple Courier Packages: Reduced frequency, more boxes per shipment. This would be our preference to reduce the transportation impact, it would also lower package cost as low as £4/box depending on courier and number of packages.
      • Pallet: If a common form of shipment for the business, this option can be accommodated. However, we can only accept 100 x 120cm pallets in good condition, since this is a size we can then re-use.

As suggested above, the first time you wish to send print waste via this program, please send us an email to discuss the best options for your setup. For every customer our aim will be to maximise the usage of waste, increase efficiency and standardise their return process.

If you have any questions, feel free to add a comment below, since it may help someone else.

Thank you for your interest in our latest environmental program.

Print Waste Recycling Program

11 thoughts on “Print Waste Recycling Program

  • March 3, 2021 at 11:30 am

    This is a good idea. I look forward to sending you my waste !

    • March 3, 2021 at 1:20 pm

      Glad you think so! As they say, one man’s waste is another man’s treasure 🙂

  • March 18, 2021 at 6:50 am

    Do you have plans to accept other waste PLA from other sources?

    • August 9, 2021 at 9:52 am

      I’ve been conscientiously sorting and saving waste into half a dozen shoeboxes in the hope that I can send them somewhere one day.
      I’ve not yet used 3DTomorrow PLA (but will as soon as I need to replenish a colour!) so it’s all a mix of anything but.
      I suppose there’s a problem with consistency of quality / properties of each variety of PLA. We all know how optimum printing temp can vary!

      • August 10, 2021 at 6:28 pm

        Hey John, the main problem is we have no idea what goes into other PLA filament, especially the offshore brands! During the extrusion process, it is possible to add all sorts of cheap fillers to lower the cost of the end product, but naturally, this makes recycling incredibly difficult. Obviously, we know our material is pure, so recycling is much more feasible. Hope that makes sense! Let us know how you get on with our PLA 🙂

  • November 3, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    I’ve been toying with using Oyster mushrooms to break down PLA waste. Obviously I’d be happier if it was recycled rather than degraded. Please consider running a ‘recycled bakelite brown filament’ line and accept the variations from different fillers.
    It can’t be too different from PLA pure if it’s for printing, surely?

    • November 22, 2021 at 8:35 pm

      Hi Patrick, thank you for your comment, Oyster mushrooms is a new one! I’ll have to do some research into that.

      At the moment, we are not able to turn the material we receive through the print waste recycling scheme back into filament. There are a number of reasons for this.

      Instead, we pay for the material returned to be melted down and moulded into other usable objects. As such, our print waste recycling service is purely a cost. We are committed to minimising waste so don’t mind this cost for our own materials, but we’re a small company so cannot afford to do so for other manufacturers materials at this stage, they should share the burden. Why not consider a switch to 3DTomorrow filament, that way you’d be supporting a more sustainable approach to manufacturing and any future waste you generate through printing can at least be recycled? 🙂

      Onto your point about other filament marketed as PLA not being that different, it can actually be VASTLY different. Our PLA is as pure as you can get, just PLA + Colour, so 99%+. The alternatives can vary quite drastically, at the ‘good’ end of the scale, PLA often referred to as ‘pure’ is generally PLA + Masterbatch Binder + Colour, which can mean around 4% of the filament is not PLA. At the worse end of the scale, we have seen filament with (additive/filler + colour + masterbatch binder) levels above 30%, at which point you’re looking at a completely different set of material properties for the modified PLA.

      Another reason for the restriction to our materials only; is because we aim to eventually recreate some form of filament from the print waste returned to us in order to completely close the loop. The chances of success here, do rest on the consistency of the batch and the assured knowledge of what originally went into the material.

  • January 29, 2022 at 12:05 pm

    Anyone know of recycling alternatives? Non of my waste filament is this brand, but i have all my waste sorted by type. I just need pointers to where it could go.

    • January 30, 2022 at 2:07 pm
      Permalink are in the process of launching a service for print waste recycling. They can accept waste from different providers, although it does cost to use this service.

  • September 21, 2023 at 10:01 am

    Do you provide a collection service for Recycled powder, PA12 for example? We have 3D printed parts that we need collecting and also excess recycled powder.

    • November 25, 2023 at 11:24 am

      Hi Daryll, we do not unfortunately


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