Too Much Plastic?

I never see it discussed in the realm of three dimensional printing with plastic. I have often given the subject some conscious thought. But have never let it hinder my creation of things of plastic. I do have a definite awareness that this may not be the best choice as a building material.

Plastic is, however, very convenient. Does that justify its use? Something to ponder.

There is one form of plastic named polylatic acid (PLA) that is highly touted as being a bio-degradable plastic made from corn. It supposedly will decompose somewhat like a piece of hardwood buried in the soil of the planet earth. However, there are many varieties and blends of PLA used with 3D printing. 


I must wonder if the “bio-degradable” claim includes every variety of possible PLA blends. Actually, I have not seen or read of ANY definitive proof that PLA in the form used for 3D printing has ANY biodegradable characteristics. But that does not mean it isn’t bio-degradable.

However, PLA filament is not the only form of plastic filament commonly used with the hobbyist grade FDM printing systems. There are at least a dozen more thermoplastics used in 3D printing that are definitely not bio-degradable. Don’t confuse bio-degradable with recycling.

There is another realm of plastic used for 3D printing. The photo-UV sensitive  resins in common use with SLA. MSLA, and all other forms of UV printing. The uncured resins are prominently labeled with environment warnings. However, I have seen no posted cautions on the disposal of cured (hardened) resin printed items. Certainly, they are not recyclable. 

The recycle myth needs to be considered. There has been ample discussion that the entire volume of plastic that can be recycled is no more than 10% of the volume produced. That does not imply we are not doing a lot of recycling. It says humans create one hell of an amount of disposable one-time use new plastic, most of which can never be repurposed.

I think repurposed is a better description than recycle. Recycle implies making more plastic items from old plastic. Repurpose implies finding another use use for old plastic in its current form. Such as adding it to road paving material. 

Here is a LINK with much more about plastic as a problem.

This post is not about solving the problem with plastic. The point here is to consider how much my use of plastic for 3D printing relates to the overall problem. When one looks at the photographic evidence of plastic waste, a huge portion of it is discarded one-time packaging materials, especially bottles.

Discarded plastic 3D printed long- life items are probably < .0001% of the existing volume. (Just my SWAG!)

There are many environmental issues with all human activities. Humans are simply a biological life form of blight upon the earth. The fact is the planet would be in far more “natural” condition without the human species.

All life modifies its environment. That is what life does. Humans, after they ceased being “hunter/gatherers” have simply taken resource consumption to the extreme. Humans have always depleted available natural resources wherever they create a “civilization” and have a static existence for long periods. Causing wars of conquest to acquire additional resources. (Romans, Japan, etc.)

I don’t have any answers to post. I will do what I can to produce less plastic JUNQUE as I have decided to call it. But I probably will not stop making useable long-life items from plastic.

Do I care about the planet 100 years from today? My "politically incorrect" answer is actually, "No, I do not." I will not be affected. My body will be at least partially re-cycled by then. But I do believe mishandling of one-use plastic today is a threat to all life on the planet. Recycling is a MYTH and has never been the solution.

The earth (and weather) will become a totally different place. Humans and other life will adapt or perish. It is not my personal goal to ensure all forms of life an everlasting existence by not using plastic. War and pestilence (be it Covid or the plague) will always be more a regulator of humanity than how many long-use small plastic items I can personally create.

My rule: Everything I consume must be in moderation. Tread lightly with personal use of resources with consideration of long term effects. My mark in time will be insignificant after I am gone and only the things I make will mark my having passed through.