(Originally posted on August 29th, 2020) Filament from PET bottles which is used as an input material for producing 3D printed products is now being produced locally in Kenya. This is a wonderful milestone for the KEPSA coordinated Partnership for New Plastics Economy Kenya Project because 3D Products producers will no longer need to import the filament after the successful local production. Additionally, the availability of inexpensive, high quality locally manufactured filament will spur manufacturing, entrepreneurship and job creation predominantly for the youth. Most importantly, we can keep the environment clean and people and ecosystems healthy.
The journey to this milestone began in the year 2018. The KEPSA New Plastics Economy Partnership stewardship, the Project brought together various organisations namely Discover Brands, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, Tech4Trade and Qtron which undertook research and engineering of the equipment, appropriate technology and infrastructure required to produce filament in Kenya. Coca-Cola Beverages Africa provided the first 10 kgs of clean PET required to test the production of the filament.
Filament production requires very clean PET. In order to get sufficient supply of the material, post-consumer PET segregation at source will be important. Under the partnership, Nyayo Estate in Embakasi is now segregating at least 180 kilograms clean PET bottles a month to be recycled into filament. The partnership is currently working with other stakeholders like the Kenya Alliance of Residential Associations to include other estates that can be able to segregate their PET at source.
According to the Chairman of the Nyayo Estate residents Association Mr. Teddy Obiero, “We are happy to work with the New Plastics Economy-Kenya in making sure that what was previously our waste plastic materials is reused instead of ending up at Dandora dumpsite or littering the environment. It was our plan to start recycling our waste. But now, through the NPE-K, we know that its not just recycling but we know what our PET is ending up to be.”
Working with Ministry of Environment and Forestry Multiagency Committee on Circular Economy, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services, a select Residents Associations, Kenya Association of Waste Recyclers and other stakeholders, KEPSA is influencing the segregation of waste at source a household at a time in order to maintain integrity of materials in line with the tenets of circular economy.
Of late, 3D printing has developed tremendously and can now perform crucial roles in many applications, with the most important being manufacturing, architecture, custom art & design and medicine. 3D printing processes have evolved to the point where they are currently being used in medical, manufacturing industries and for other commercial purposes inspired by the sociocultural sectors which facilitate 3D printing.
3D printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines the economies of scale. According to an article in The Economist on February 10, 2011, “The potential of 3D printing may have a profound impact on the world economies similar to the printing press in 1450, the steam engine in 1750 or the transistor in 1950.” Just like the three examples mentioned which no one saw coming, 3D printing can equally be as disruptive to every sector it touches.
The growth of 3D printing in Kenya had been stifled by the availability of filament and 3D printers. Through the NPE-K, both printers and filament, locally made will be available to make it possible to grow that industry.
Written by Faith Ngige-Coordinator, New Plastics Economy-Kenya