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PLA Recycling: Tips and Tricks for Recycling Your 3D Printing Scraps

Sep 15,2023 | 3D4Create

Recycling this PLA waste is an important step we can take to be more eco-friendly and reduce unnecessary plastic pollution from 3D printing.

This guide will provide tips and tricks for preparing, recycling, and reusing your 3D printing scraps.

I. Why Recycle PLA?

There are two main benefits to taking the time to recycle your PLA 3D printing waste.

  1. Environmental friendliness: By recycling instead of sending to landfills, it reduces plastic waste and minimizes environmental impact. It preserves resources and lowers your carbon footprint.

  2. Cost savings: Recycling and reusing scrap material in 3D printing helps save money. You buy less new filament, cut costs, and give old PLA prints a new life in different forms, validating the time invested in 3D printing.

SUNLU Bright Color Tough PLA PLUS 3D Filament 1KG 1.75MM

SUNLU PLA+ 3D Filament 1KG 1.75mm


II. Prepare the PLA for Recycling

Start by removing any rafts, supports, or secondary structures from your printed parts. Clean off any residue or smears with a plastic-safe solvent like isopropyl alcohol.

Ensure all pieces are free of adhesives, coatings or paints which can contaminate the PLA recycling. Try to separate scraps by color, as this allows easier reuse of recycled filament. Break down larger chunks and shards into smaller pieces approximately 1 inch in size for easier handling.

Your recycled PLA won’t be as pristine as new, but following these preparation tips will help improve the quality and usability of the recycled material.

PLA Recycling: Tips and Tricks for Recycling Your 3D Printing Scraps

You can start by collecting the filament waste (photo: All3DP)


II. Recycle PLA at Home

One of the easiest ways to start recycling 3D printing waste is to do it yourself at home. This route requires some investment in equipment, but provides the most control over the process.

PLA filament recyclers and extruders are increasingly common and affordable for home use. These appliances shred and melt down scrap PLA, extruding it into usable recycled filament coils. Filament recyclers like the Filabot and Extrudasoarus models range from $200 to over $1000 for more sophisticated options.

For the budget-conscious, you can try building your own DIY filament extruder or shredder from 3D printed and hardware store parts. Guides for these projects are readily available online. Though time consuming, home recycling with DIY equipment is an accessible option.


III. Recycle PLA Commercially

If you don’t have the space or resources for home recycling, commercial recycling of PLA waste may be a good solution. Search locally for plastic recycling centers or services that accept PLA. Some 3D printing shops offer recycling programs where you can drop off scrap material.


IV. Creative Ways to Reuse Filament Waste

Instead of immediately recycling scraps, also consider ways to creatively reuse extra 3D printed PLA. Small offcut chunks and pieces can be fused together when hot to make quirky, multi-colored prints. Break shards into smaller flakes to mix with glue or resin for unique designer jewelry.

Use larger solid remnants as construction material for shelves, planters, toys, or other functional prints. With ingenuity, failed prints and rafts don’t have to go straight to the recycling bin. Extend their use in fun crafts, builds, and projects before recycling.


V. Tips for Reducing Filament Waste

While failed prints and excess plastic are inevitable in 3D printing, there are strategies to prevent waste buildup:

  • Minimize supports and use brims which require less material than dense rafts and supports. This reduces plastic waste when removing the structures.
  • Avoid printing too many components at once. If one part fails, it can ruin the others on the print bed. Separate a large project into multiple prints to contain failures.
  • Maintain your printer and calibrate regularly. This helps avoid issues that lead to failed prints.
  • Use camera monitoring or plugins to catch print failures early before they waste material.
  • When possible, choose filaments made from recycled plastics. This reduces the amount of new plastic needed.
  • Optimize print settings for each specific model to help ensure print success.

eSUN 3D Printer Filament PLA+ 1.75mm 1KG

eSUN 3D Printer Filament PLA+ 1.75mm 1KG


VI. Conclusion

Recycling PLA shows your commitment to reducing waste and caring for the environment. Use these techniques to recycle your 3D printing waste, save money on materials, and give your prints a second life in new forms.

With some effort and ingenuity, you can easily make PLA recycling a regular part of your 3D printing workflow.



Q1: What can I do with leftover PLA scraps?

A: You have several options for reusing PLA scraps: melt into new filament, incorporate as filler into new prints, mold into new shapes, use for crafts/jewelry/art, fuse into blocks for decoration, etc. Get creative!

Q2: How do you reuse 3D printing scraps?

A: Chop up scraps into small pieces to add as filler to prints, melt down into new filament, mold into new objects, use remnants for crafts and art, mix with resin for composites, and more.

Q3: Can 3D printed PLA be recycled?

A: Yes, PLA can be recycled by melting and extruding into new filament. You can use a filament recycler, extruder, or recycler service.


See Also:

5 Best Ways for 3D Printer Filament Storage


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