Recycled plastic utensils make surprisingly good 3D printer filament

3D Printer
(Image credit: CNC Kitchen)

We live in a world with plenty of waste from our day-to-day activities—why not repurpose your trash? At least, that’s what CNC Kitchen (as they’re known over on YouTube) seems to have been thinking when he recently melted down plastic kitchen cutlery into working 3D printer filament.

CNC Kitchen uses a custom filament extruder to pull this project off. It works by taking plastic pellets (or, in this case, scrap kitchenware plastic), melting them down, and processing them into a long strand. This strand is then captured and reeled onto a spool to be used as filament by a 3D printer.

Filament works best when dry and is easier for the machine to process if it’s broken into small pieces. CNC Kitchen had to blend the plastic utensils into tiny bits and bake them in an oven at a low temperature to remove any moisture that would otherwise impact the quality of the filament. Once it was ready, he put the pieces into an Artme3D.

The first batch came out really thin and extremely brittle. To resolve this issue, CNC Kitchen lowered the temperature which resulted in a thicker filament strand. When printing with the material from the utensils, the final objects were quick to snap. To add some rigidity, CNC Kitchen decided to test it with different blends of both the cutlery and fresh PLA pellets. This increased the durability of the prints and proved that the cutlery could be recycled into usable 3D printer filament.

If you don’t mind all the prep work that goes into it, this could be a viable option for recycling old PLA. Whether or not it’s considered environmentally friendly is up for debate as it depends on a few factors, like electricity usage, transportation, etc. In the end, your mileage may vary. That said, if you want to get a closer look at this project, you can see it in action over at YouTube. There you’ll also get a look at how the material prints and what it looks like when adding a bit of color to the mix.

Ash Hill
Freelance News and Features Writer

Ash Hill is a Freelance News and Features Writer at Tom's Hardware US. She manages the Pi projects of the month and much of our daily Raspberry Pi reporting.