Please accept consumables for recycling ♻


#1

I just had a discussion with support about this and raised some requests; I wanted to post here, too. It would be great if Formlabs accepted tanks and cartridges for recycling.

Currently, users can only almost get there, with some effort:

  • Discarded tanks can be completely cleaned with alcohol, or left in the sun to cure after scraping.
  • Discarded cartridges can also be completely cleaned with alcohol, or cut open and left in the sun to cure.

(The above of course really ought to be done anyways before disposal into the trash, to eliminate uncured resins.)

In the case of alcohol cleaning, of course this produces hazardous waste, however the same solvent can at least be reused many times to clean tanks and cartridges before having to be disposed of.

However, the ability to recycle on my end stops here. Neither the tanks nor the cartridges have recycling stamps on them, and therefore will not be accepted by my local (NYC, USA) recycling services. According to support, the stamps are intentionally left off specifically to prevent recycling because the uncured resin that is normally left over (if you don’t clean them) is, of course, problematic.

So there’s not really any way to recycle any of this stuff. There are no viable options on our end. Even if users prep the materials, lack of stamping renders them non-recyclable.

I really think it would be great for Formlabs to accept consumables for recycling. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Formlabs could process and reuse the materials themselves (cartridges, tank frames and electronics), so it seems like the materials would have the most value in their hands, compared to general municipal recycling.

But, regardless of how they’re recycled, this would be great. It’d be in line with some other industries as well; for example stores that sell batteries are required to accept them for recycling in many places, pharmacies often offer responsible drug disposal services, etc.

Plus, at least before the pandemic became the main headline, environmental awareness was starting to become more mainstream than ever before (granted it was thrown out the window when half the world starting taking baths in IPA and going through latex gloves like water), and so I think it would be a great PR move for the company, especially after the pandemic ends and Twitter starts freaking out about the more traditional issues again. :joy:

Anyways, please consider this. Here is a collection of related forum posts, i.e. there is definitely interest in this from users:

And possibly more.


As an aside, another part of the request I made with support was the possibility of allowing users to order replacement film assemblies for tanks, which would let us reuse the frame and electronics directly on our end. Not sure how feasible it is, but it’s another thing along these lines. It’s relatively rare for a tank failure to not be in the film adhesive, and that’s also really the only consumable part of the tank. It’s a bit uncomfortable having to toss a bunch of perfectly reusable components into a landfill every time I throw a tank away.


Thanks!
Jason


#2

Yes! Formlabs need to address the waste problem. Apparently they have been ‘looking into it’ but I see no evidence of this. There are definitely options for recycling certain parts and reusing or replacing others but sadly I think its an issue that many consumers don’t care about. Even so, it would surely be better to get a solution and show some proactivity?


#3

I think the first thing that people who are concerned with recycling should do is check with their local authorities that they actually recycle plastics and not ship the waste to third world countries for it Ito be picked over for saleable item and then the unwanted stuff dumped into the nearest river.

Since the Chinese have banned the import of waste materials recycling in wester countries has become a bad joke.


#4

Really appreciate everyone taking the time to post! And Jason, thank you for the very well-thought-out thread topic.

We absolutely hear our customers on this count, and while I don’t have anything I can mention right now, I just want to be clear I read you loud and clear, and hopefully there will be more to say on the topic of sustainability and recycling soon.

Don’t hesitate to continue to bring this to our attention. It’s really helpful for us to know what our community is passionate about. I’ll also just mention that it’s similarly important to us as employees of Formlabs. We are not OK with the status quo and continue to push to have more of an impact in this area.


#5

+1 Very important to me too!


#6

+1 for me too!


#7

In general, recycled plastic costs more than virgin. So how much would people be willing to pay to have their empty cartridges returned and refurbished?


#8

Probably much more expensive to ship them around and clean them than making new ones. Not worth the trouble.

What is annoying me is that every time I buy a new Form 3 resin tank, I am buying a new container for it as well. It doesn’t look like saving plastic was high on the agenda when the Form 3 was developed. It’s such a waste having to throw away a perfectly fine container made out of thick plastic and since these tanks expire rapidly the amount of plastic builds up quickly.


#9

The program has to be profitable for FormLabs too, to be feasible. My hope is that they have a cost-effective way of recycling components. Regardless, I would pay shipping, and maybe a bit more. I don’t mind some waste disposal fees to keep it out of Rumpke or the Finger Lakes.

But ideally, I’d be able to reuse certain components myself; I’d love a minimally-packaged, replaceable film assembly. Sending empty cartridges in for direct refills, the ability to order larger containers that can be transferred to cartridges, returning the tank containers when ordering new tanks, small things like being able to purchase slightly lower cost tanks that don’t come with a new mixer blade, things along those lines would also help address the consumable waste.

The biggest high-level issue right now, as I see it, is that for users who do want to reduce waste output, it’s not currently possible by any means. So, really, there’s a lot of different angles to approach solutions from. All the ideas I’ve been spitting out are just a bit of brainstorming - I don’t have any knowledge of Formlabs’ supply chains and can’t really contribute concrete ideas.

Btw if enough of you don’t want the hassle of shipping and are in the Eastern PA USA area, I’m pre-advertising my future FormLabs waste pickup service. :joy: