Protoprint is a Social Enterprise based in Pune, India that works collaboratively with urban waste pickers co-operatives, using low-cost technology to produce 3D printer filament from the waste plastic they collect. This generates more value at the grassroots and significantly boosts waste-picker incomes. Our model is to market the filament globally, providing consumers with a price competitive, ethically sourced, recycled alternative to virgin plastic. We have a pilot filament production facility set up at a garbage dump in Pune and are working with the National Chemical Labs to improve our filament quality to match virgin offerings.

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We began working on an fair trade filament production process in mid 2012, determined to use low-cost, inclusive technology accompanied by a distributed production model. In collaboration with our pilot partner SWaCH (a local wastepickers co-operative) we have made significant progress in developing a scalable, vertically integrated production model to produce recycled HDPE printer filament from waste plastic collected on the ground.

The idea initially took root as a side project when we recognized a gap in the 3D filament market for a recycled filament product. The filament offerings currently on the market largely consist of virgin PLA and ABS plastics, adding to the already rampant plastics problem. Our Fair Trade Filament offering is pioneering the concept of an environmentally friendly, ethical 3D printer filament. We began pilot filament production in December 2013 and work with HDPE plastic (High Density Polyethylene). We chose to work with HDPE after conducting a thorough survey of the plastics collected by urban waste-pickers and factoring in logistical and material constraints. However, HDPE has significant warping issues when 3D printed (due to its chemical properties) and we are currently working with the National Chemical Labs to develop an additive to prevent this warping. At this time, we only work with a select group of partners to test our filament and will start commercial distribution once we conclude our research and development.

Protoprint is committed to open source development and we're happy to assist other organizations interested in implementing inclusive, community lead solutions. Contact us if you're interested in our work!

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