A part-time teacher at Tasmania’s premiere educational provider TasTAFE, Marcos Gogolin has dedicated much of his research over the past five years to finding ways to productively use waste from plastic marine rope. As he explains it, he was inspired to find a solution to the rope waste after traveling to Tasmania’s west coast and seeing the amount of pollution and waste that had washed up on shore. “We had a couple of dozen people walking along the coast…we picked up that year 4.5 tons of rubbish,” he explains.
Most notable among all the waste, were the many small pieces of plastic rope that washed up, originating from the fishing industry. While individually small, Gogolin figured that if he found a way to reuse all the plastic rope waste, he would help reduce the amount of trash going straight into the landfill, and importantly, into the ocean. Around the same time, Gogolin was given a 3D printer to develop courses at TasTAFE and he realized what he could use the plastic waste for: 3D printing filament.
In the beginning, Gogolin experimented using hot glue guns to melt the plastic rope and turn it into a sort of filament, though he was met with some challenges. “I damaged three of those guns,” he says. Fortunately, he did not give up, and kept looking for other ways to turn the plastic rope offcuts into a 3D printable filament.
With the help of a team of students from TasTAFE, Gogolin was able to develop a machine that was capable of turning out plastic 3D printing filament. And while the machine itself is still quite rudimentary, Gogolin and his team are hopeful that it will garner attention from local businesses and engineers who can help to further develop it, making it more and more viable.
In a world where plastic waste and pollution are being dumped into our oceans, Gogolin’s effort is not only noble, but necessary. As he says, “There is too much plastic being produced, it’s crazy, it’s completely out of hand. I think it has to come to a point where to produce new plastic is so expensive, it’s not viable anymore and people will start to value the resource of the waste.”
Gogolin’s effort to recycle plastic waste to turn it into 3D printing filament is not the only one, however, as a number of efforts and initiatives are underway to accomplish the same thing. Even such high profile companies as Adidas have found a way to turn ocean plastic into sneakers, and many others are using other types of plastic waste (from water bottles to old car parts) to create 3D printing filament.