Recycling Project Improves The Lives Of Workers In Developing Countries

Recycling Project Improves The Lives Of Workers In Developing Countries

Startup's founders hope to build a socially responsible 3D-printing enterprise

Lauren Kirkwood
  • 10 june 2016

An Amsterdam-based startup is hiring waste pickers in developing countries to collect used bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, with the goal of using technology to recycle those bottles by converting them into 3D printing filament—otherwise known as the “ink” of 3D printers. Through the project, Reflow hopes to spearhead an environmentally friendly initiative that also improves the lives of those who collect and sell waste for a living.


According to the company, by obtaining the plastic to be converted into filament for use for 3D printing from developing countries, Reflow can help boost waste pickers’ income by up to 20 times the current average of $2 per day. For many workers, the money they receive from collected waste plastic is their only source of income, according to Reflow.


Reflow also hopes to eliminate the poor working conditions that individual waste pickers face—like unfair pricing and social alienation—by offering them the security of working for an established organization with a steady income.


Reflow’s founders partnered with techfortrade, a United Kingdom-based charity, and several other organizations to get the project off the ground. A pilot program has already launched, and Reflow plans to test its system in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya over the next few months, Design Indaba has reported.


A Kickstarter campaign launched by the start-up urges supporters to back its method of “socially responsible” 3D printing—Reflow plans to invest a quarter of its profits back into the communities of the waste pickers it hires. Rewards for those who support the campaign include art pieces such as robots and fighter planes crafted with Reflow filament, according to the crowdfunding page. The company hopes to ship its first orders by early 2017.


+3d printing
+collected waste plastic
+polyethylene terephthalate

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