Indian waste pickers earn six times more with locally produced filament from plastic waste

Feed your 3D-printer with ethical filament

Published in Recycling by

Ethical filament is the responsible variant of filament for 3D-printers, made from plastic waste collected by waste pickers in developing countries and produced locally. Ethical filament could be a solution for both poverty and plastic waste pollution. Production of the recycled filament is currently tested in India and Tanzania with support from the UK and the Netherlands.

Filament production ‘a tremendous amount of value to the waste plastic while still being relatively simple to manufacture at the dump,’ Indian social entrepreneur Sidhant Pai told The Guardian. His company Protoprint works with SWaCH, a Pune-based cooperative wholly owned by waste pickers. The waste pickers now operate a low-cost filament production facility next to a waste dump, which yields them six to eight times the price they used to get for unprocessed plastic waste.


A UK NGO Tech for Trade is promoting technical and ethical standards for filament production from plastic waste, in part by offering a low cost, open source ‘Thunderhead’ extruder. The Dutch social enterprise ReFlow, based in Amsterdam, works with Tech for Trade’s printing partners in Tanzania to establish a business just like Protoprint’s in India.

According to the Guardian-story there are still technical issues to be tackled before the ethical filament meets the quality of virgin filament. But ReFlow’s co-founder Jasper van Middendorp is quite confident this will be dealt with in less than a month. With 15 million waste pickers across the world, 300 million tons of plastic produced annually, and 3D-printing only just beginning to conquer the world, ethical filament has the potential to solve many issues at the same time.

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