Currently we are working exclusively with PET bottles for two primary reasons:
First of all, it allows us to precisely source the plastic. Other types of plastic, for example ABS, have varying chemical compositions and added toxins, such as flame retardant. PET is instantly recognizable across the world and the chemical composition is exactly the same.
Secondly, PET is just a damn strong material to print with. Although less known than ABS and PLA, it is stronger, tougher and more durable.
Our material comes from waste collectors in Dar es Salaam Tanzania who pick plastic bottles by the road or at designated locations (bars, hotels etc.) and bring them to a satellite collection point or central facility. The plastic is weighed, examined and the waste collector is paid. At our current pilot facilities we work with existing recycling centres that shred and clean the plastic for us. However, with the steep drop in plastic prices (directly linked to the oil price), this is becoming harder. That’s why over the next few months we are aiming to set up a controlled plastic supply specifically for Reflow, together with local partners.
Our main challenges in setting this up are finding a reliable, continuous source of plastic, building relationships with waste collectors and tracking and tracing the money paid out to collectors in order to measure our impact. We will be running small scale tests in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi together with local recycling partners. The goals of these tests will be to find clean high quality plastic from restaurants and hotels.