Introduction to 3D printing recycling | Part 1



This series will explore the potential of recycling household plastic waste into homemade 3D printing filament. I will look specifically into the potential for cost savings and waste reduction.

Let’s start with a quick introduction. I’m Bram, the guy playing around with the filabot at 3D Hubs HQ. I’ve been doing quite some experimenting already and now I will be summarizing my findings in a series of 5 topics covering the basics of recycling for 3D printing. For any questions relating to the filabot, the shreddder or any other topic that I’m covering please feel free to nudge me by leaving a comment or just send me an email at :wink:

This first part will contain 3 posts that focus on the why, how and what of making your own filament from recycled material.

  • Post: 1: Why make recycled filament
  • Post: 2: How does the 3D printing recycling process work
  • Post: 3: What machines are available

So then lets get to it and start of with the first post:

Why make recycled filament?

There are generally two main reasons to make your own filament:

  • Cost reduction of 3D printing
  • Waste reduction

At this moment the largest cost of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing is the cost of filament, with average cost somewhere between €30-€60 per kg. When producing your own filament you can reduce this cost with a whopping 80-95%. This is if you use pellets of new material such as the PLA pellets from Colorfabb:


In fact if you use only recycled material from old prints your filament will be practically free. Most probably though you will get better results if you mix the old prints with new pellets to produce new filament. This only slightly increases the costs of your filament but can potentially increase the quality quite a bit. If filament uses 80% new material and 20% recycled old prints that doesn’t seem like much but on a global scale a 20% reduction of the environmental impact is huge! In Part 2 and Part 3 of this series I will look into the best ratios for producing high quality filament.

Not only can you reduce the cost of 3D printing that you incur, you can limit the cost of 3D printing on our environment as well. The plastics most used in 3D printing are ABS and PLA. ABS is made from oil and its production process isn’t exactly environmentally friendly.

infographic ABS cycle small.png

PLA is a bio degradable plastic that can be made from crops such as starch or sugarcane. However this plastic unfortunately raises a whole bunch of questions on its friendliness to our environment.

3D printing is often praised as a clean alternative to mass production due to its promise of local manufacturing. Imagine a world without transportation of products. How different is the fact that 3D printing nowadays contributes to most problems that plastics cause with every new print that is made. Thanks to the development of a process for recycling for 3D printing this paradox no longer needs to exist. Re-using your old prints or even turning your old milk jars into new prints is the way to go and now more feasible than ever.


This is very promising! Will you cover what can be recycled?


Looking forward to next article.

Maybe hubs in cities can co-op to create filament together.

Most-enviroment-friendly-3d-hub-city-badge :slight_smile:


Looking forward to seeing the fruits of your recycled filament prints!


Can’t wait to see the rest of Part 1 (and see what machines you are using - I’m about to order a Redetec Protocycler)!


You could also take into account the time needed to produce your own filament.

Also I am not sold on the idea that you can produce filament yourself with tolerances like that from Colorfabb or Faberdashery. And if you don’t - get ready for nozzle clogs and other annoyances.


Ha Bram,

I am curious to compare the quality of home-made recycled filament with filament made on an industrial machine. Could you test our InnoCircle ABS and InnoCircle PLA recycled filaments?



Yes indeed a very cool idea! We’re actually starting a pilot soon to see how this can be done best :wink: Will definitely keep you posted on the progress.


Thanks for your comment, indeed the time needed for producing filament is probably an important factor for most people so I will take this into account. I agree that it will most probably be very difficult to get the same precision filament as an industrial installation can produce. However the goal of my research is not to get the same quality filament as filament that is made in an industrial setting. The question that I am trying to answer is what quality can be achieved so indeed this includes trial and error and might very well produce some annoyances. In the end however hopefully it can form a base for other people to make an estimation if they feel it is worth the effort.


Hi JW,

Sure! I’d be happy to test it :wink: Thanks for the offer. Is it possible for you to send the spools over to our 3D Hubs HQ?




Ok cool! More will follow this week :wink:


Me too! Will be a few weeks before I do a full post on that but maybe I’ll be able to show some preliminary results in the meantime :wink:


Yep! Later on in this series I will go through the most common types of plastics and discuss which ones are suitable and which ones aren’t.


Nice! It’d be cool to share some of your findings/ experiences with using the Redetec Protocycler. Keep us posted!


Yes indeed! I would be very interested in hearing about your experiences with the Redetec Protocycler!


hmm… crazy idea.

But why not offer a service where hubs can get their failed prints etc recycled?

i have close to 4 winebox’s (for 6 bottles) filled with failed prints.

i would like to have my own filabot and shredder but simply dont have the money for it


i have a filament width sensor i can attach to my printer so if the diameter varies slightly it would not matter much to me


I will be sure to share my experience once I get my hands on one! I also agree with several of the other comments suggesting the ability to somehow display (on 3D Hubs) to customers the fact that a Hub is using recycled filament.

Perhaps we could add filament production as another service that Hubs can provide! Think about that - a whole ecosystem of filament producers!




HI, i am bery intereting in this ideia, and i actually build a filament extruder based on the Lyman`s, and work fine just need some tune. But in my experience the biggest problem is to transform the failed prints into pallets so we can recycle our prints. Any one have a thought about it? thanks