sustainability is a design opportunity

Over the past 50 years, our global economy has become dependent on plastics that are destroying our planet. This material isn’t inherently bad but how it’s used now is devastating. 3D printing is a technology that is rapidly evolving design and manufacturing. It also holds great promise in the area of sustainability, offering flexibility in your choice of input. As a team, we firmly believe that this tool can help stem the tide of plastic pollution and unlock new possibilities for communities and creators everywhere.

140,634

bottles repurposed

270

KG's of CO2 saved

180

educational contributions made

EXPLORE THE 3 STRANDS OF OUR IMPACT STRATEGY

Modern technology owes ecology an apology

Plastics are a family of compounds defined by their malleability, the ability to be molded into an infinite array of solid objects. Since the 1930’s, these materials have delivered positive economic benefits in a host of areas from packaging to electrical components. Unfortunately, its creators scarcely considered the environmental impact of this breakthrough and as a result, most plastics have a fatal design flaw. They don’t disappear.

Global Plastic Statistics

2018

348 MILLION TONNES

2050

1124 MILLION TONNES

PLASTIC NOT RECYCLED

A Global Economy Addicted to Plastics That Destroy Our Planet

Over the past 50 years, plastic production surged from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 348 million tonnes in 2016. A shocking 91% of plastic produced is not recycled and over 95% of all plastic is produced from chemicals sourced in fossil fuels. This material typically has a product life cycle of less than a year but lives on for centuries, polluting our urban areas or natural habitats and consequently, our food supply. If we don’t tackle this profound problem now, the consequences for ecology and mankind will be irreversible.

Reflow, a Commercial Solution that is Collaborative And Scalable

To tackle a complex challenge, we have to approach it from every angle. While we need to rapidly eliminate the unnecessary use of plastic, we also need to create an effective after-use economy for plastics that can be sustainable if properly managed. The importance of this is summarised excellently in a report created by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, The New Plastics Economy. The Reflow vision is to create a high value application in 3D printing for recycled plastics that can support and grow the recycling ecosystem while fuelling creativity and enterprise.

3D Printing is a Flexible, Sustainable Factory

3D Printing is a family of technologies that translates any three dimensional object you can imagine into physical reality. It’s revolutionising design in every category from robotics to consumer goods. At Reflow we’re focused on FDM technology, where 80% of users select plastic as a primary input. Sustainable materials constitute less than 5% of the overall market. By servicing this unmet demand we inspire our industry to be environmentally conscious and enable creators to design and produce outstanding, sustainable end products.

See The Reflow Process in Action

The Reflow process can be thought of as a collaborative chain with 4 key steps:

Our Sustainable Materials Involve no Compromise on Quality

Over the past 3 years at Reflow, we have been determined to create recycled 3D printing materials that can compete with the best virgin materials on the market. We know that quality is king for designers and makers. That’s why we’ve worked with leading recyclers and some of the best scientific and commercial testers to ensure our flagship recycled materials deliver unparalleled print performance.

People Created This Problem, We Can and Must Create the Solution

As individuals, creators, consumers or entrepreneurs, it’s clear that we must urgently consider the environmental impact of our behaviour. Our technological discoveries created the plastic problem, now we must combine human ingenuity with a truly collaborative approach to solve it. We’ve learned how crucial the collection, sorting and processing of discarded material is. However, much of this work remains undervalued and weighs on the backs of the poorest communities on earth. This must change.

The Reflow Collaborative Ecosystem

In order for our vision to have an impact, we are reliant on the creativity, dedication and passion of individuals in these key areas

DESIGNERS & MAKERS

The very same tool can produce a million distinct uses in the hands of different thinkers. 3D printing is a tool that presents infinite possibilities but we need the creative mindsets and hard work of creators to illustrate just how powerful sustainable 3D printing can be. Everyday, we see new applications, whether it's in architecture, product design,  engineering or even stop motion cinema. This is an essential sustainable tool for everyone’s toolbox.

RECYCLERS

Recycling organisations play a crucial role in making this idea possible. Large scale recyclers coordinate the separation, cleaning and processing of many different waste streams so they can be used once again as valuable inputs. This requires in depth material expertise, powerful technology and efficient coordination. Reflow is proud to work with large scale recyclers like Indorama to grow the potential of this circular system.

ENTERPRISES

Plastic is a crucial part of the supply chain of most businesses. The materials that producers select, how they use and dispose of them, has profound consequences for our planet. These decisions are complex and raises tough questions around cost and scalability. However, 33% of consumers now say that they choose to buy from brands doing environmental good. Sustainable design is not only an imperative for our planet, it’s a powerful selling point.

WASTE COLLECTORS

It’s hard to exactly capture the full figure, but there are at least 24 million people worldwide who earn their livelihoods participating in recycling processes. These individuals do the crucial work in collecting, sorting and cleaning the waste we collectively produce. However 80% of these jobs are in the informal economy and carried out by some of the most vulnerable people in society who face life threatening working conditions and exploitation.

A Fairer Model for Everyone

Reflow is driven to create an effective redistribution model to support the incredible social organisations who work with the wider, often invisible, communities within our supply chain. In 2018 we began work with Chintan, a Delhi based NGO improving the livelihoods of waste collectors and their families. After much deliberation, we focused on their No Child in Trash Program. The goal is to ensure that children of waste collectors have access to meaningful career opportunities by providing flexible education programs to these underserved kids. We’re proud to support this cause and we’re only getting started. As Reflow grows, so too will the scale and range of our impact strategy.

Stic Lab, a Beacon of Sustainable Innovation

Reflow was born as part of a collaborative project to create affordable technology and a community based model to recycle plastic waste into 3D printing materials. Many talented people have come to this idea, in part inspired by the work of Joshua Pearce and his model of Open Source Appropriate Technology. Our journey led us to an amazing group of engineers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, led by Valerian Sanga and Stanley Mwalembe. Along with Matthew Rogge of Techfortrade and our own talented engineers, we embarked on a collaboration to pioneer a low cost, extrusion system that could easily be deployed in remote communities. Vast, sprawling waste sites like that at Pugu, are littered with waste collectors gathering material. Think how powerful it is that this trash could be mined for 3D printing materials, that could then power a digital fabrication facility to produce vital tools for the local community in areas such as health and electricity generation. This idea continues to inspire and drive us, as do our collaborators and friends at Stic Lab.