Over the last year, we’ve seen that change can happen rapidly. Within months we were isolating and quarantining to keep each other safe and adjusting to a new way of life. As we’re slowly returning to our normal lives we’re left with the question: What purpose do we want to get back to?

For us at Reflow, it means a renewed focus on finding creative ways out of the plastic pollution crisis. This means not only sourcing all our material inputs from source traceable societal recycled waste streams but also looking further upstream into how we can help make recycling itself more effective and as a whole more circular.

For the last two years, we’ve been working in collaboration with leading recycling partners Corbion and Indorama to create circular systems and materials for 3D printing. We’re transforming plastics that were destined either for landfill or incineration into new plastic through a process called PET monomer recycling. We're also developing the first filament from PEF, a bio-based plastic. Such results might seem inconsequential but these are the groundbreaking first steps to developing large scale systems. We’re excited to share our journey so far!

Monomer Recycling

In PET monomer recycling, instead of plastic being shredded, granulated and remelted, it is broken down into its base molecules. This enables the recycling of mixed, coloured and contaminated streams. There is virtually no quality loss through these cycles due to this approach, so this technology has the potential to create endless recycling loops.

It Starts at the Source

We started with one of the most difficult to recycle waste streams in the industry – PET Trays. Most recyclers have difficulty handling these waste streams due to their multi-material layers. Even recyclers handling mixed waste streams generally do not accept PET trays in their waste streams as the PET is incompatible with the PE (DLPE, HDPE) streams they generally deal with.

The use of PET trays has grown substantially, from the take away salad you eat to the meat or fruits you bring home

For the DURAPRINT project, these PET trays were depolymerized by Ioniqa. They use a glycolyse process that breaks down the PET trays into a transparent and pure virgin BHET with a reduced CO2 footprint of up to 7%.


The BHET was shipped off to Indorama, one of the worlds leading producers of PET, to create a material that is exactly the same as their virgin materials. These materials were benchmarked and tested on-site

Reflow conducted an initial lab-scale extrusion test for filament production with the granulates produced by Indorama using the ideal PET extrusion temperature - between 290-305. The initial extrusion was successful despite being limited to air cooling, which caused the diameter consistency to be far below our highly-tuned commercial projects. We expect to be able to solve this when we continue testing on our large-scale extruder.

Reflow converted the granulates produced by Indorama into the world’s first monomer recycled filament.

As a follow-up, 3D print tests were done and an initial 3D printing profile was established.

  • Nozzle 255-270 degrees Celcius
  • Bed 80-100 degrees Celcius
  • Print speed 35mm/s
  • Cooling fan 0-30%

As the diameter was inconsistent, we could not perform our initial range of 3D print tests for bridging, stringing. Instead, we opted to print one Benchy as a general test. The print completed successfully, although it had a high amount of stringing.

Follow-up tests will be done from materials created on our large-scale production extruder with water cooling

Making Plastic from Sugar

PEF is a bio alternative to PET and is made by microorganisms that use sugars derived from plants (and in the future from organic waste) to create a polymer building block called FDCA. In the polymerization stage, this FDCA is transformed into PEF, a bioplastic with comparable, and in some use cases better characteristics than fossil fuel-based PET.

Bioplastics are a key part of the transition away from fossil fuels

Bioplastics reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and make use of a renewable feedstock for our plastic creation. They can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the plastic we use. Developments are underway to make use of organic waste streams as a source that furthers the impact these materials might have.

Key issues with bioplastics are often the limited recycling infrastructure and the limited biodegradability under natural circumstances, although there is still a large improvement over their fossil fuel counterparts. We’ll be exploring the full lifecycle of these materials as part of the DURAPRINT project and will provide an in-depth update in a future post.

Reflow has received the first PEF samples from Corbion and will begin lab-scale extrusion  in Q3 2021.

Collaboration is key

The project – coined “DURAPRINT” – is done together with Indorama, the world’s largest PET producer and Corbion, a world leader in the production of bio-based materials. By combining leading players in plastic manufacturing with our sustainable approach to 3D printing we can make the future of 3D printing truly sustainable and pave the way for these technologies to be implemented by a wide variety of industries.

This programme is supported by the European Union, KansenvoorWest subsidy.


Founder & CEO
Papa Reflow. Loving father of two, Serial RomCommer and climber