Putting Waste to Good Use
By Kaviya Sanjeevi | Chennai | Published: 22nd September 2014 06:00 AM |
A recent survey by the Central Pollution Board in over 50 major cities across the country found that the waste produced amounted to more than 55 lakh tonnes in a year. Out of this, over 6,000 tonnes of plastic waste generated everyday is not collected and recycled like in many developed countries. When the country is becoming sensitive to threats to the environment with its anti-plastic measures, Sidhant Pai, Founder of Protoprint, Pune, is doing his bit too.
Protoprint provides rag pickers access to technology which can convert plastic waste into 3D printer filament. They then market the printer filament in the market. The company has also partenered with SWaCH Seva Sahakari Sanstha Maryadit, Pune, (www.swachcoop.com) a cooperative for waster pickers/collectors. SWaCH workers will have access to the technology at their respective dump sites.
Protoprint also trains these workers to scan, clean, shred and shape the plastic. FlakerBot which according to www.protoprint.in “is a low cost machine that converts waste plastic bottles and containers to plastic flakes,” produces the raw material to create the 3D printer filament. The second machine that Protoprint uses is the RefilBot which works to convert plastic flakes into high quality 3D printer filament. The Protoprint website says the RefilBot employs a rotating heating mechanism, using low-cost local parts.
The 3D printer filament is nothing but “printer cartridges for 3D printers” says a report on www.slice.mit.edu. The report also mentions that Sidhant conceived of Protoprint when he was an undergraduate, during his work for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s D-Lab. Like many other D-Lab alumni, Siddhant’s goal is to use innovative technology to improve the lives of people living in poverty. The sale of the filament caters to both individual customers and the wholesale market. The filament is available in 3mm and 1.75mm thickness; options in black, blue, yellow and natural colours.
In the www.slice.mit.edu interview, Sidhant talks about his plans for the future and about taking the company to the next level. “We are exploring a micro-finance model to allow waste picker communities to build the machinery locally, but we still have a long way to go for that. In terms of the technology itself, we are committed to making it open and available, and are already working with a few organisations abroad (mostly in South America) to modify our technology for local use.”
The report also says that Sidhant is a current D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellow and was offered $80,000 to take his company forward. He will graduate in an Scientiae Baccalaureus (SB) in Environmental Engineering. D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellow is a scholarship provided by MIT to social entrepreneurs who bring in hardware-based poverty-alleviating products and services for one year (www.d-lab.mit.edu/scale-ups/all-fellows).