All groups met Friday of last week to discuss a partnership in which we recapture campus waste plastics as a means of supplying WOOF -- a group of UW engineers working with 3D printing -- with raw materials. These raw materials are currently in short supply for WOOF, but they are commonplace -- and free -- in the solid waste of central campus. Brown compostable plastic straws and utensils, for example, are made of material ideal for 3D printing, and WOOF has the ability to recycle these plastics and print new shapes out of them using "Big Red" (shown at left). All they need is a way to efficiently harvest these plastics from the waste stream.
That's where UW Recycling, UW ESS, and the UWGP come in. We're meeting again next week to begin working on recapturing these valuable (often worth over $20/lb) plastics for WOOF from the campus waste stream. Soon we hope to be able to implement a small-scale pilot in which we assess recapture potential within a limited space, like a campus cafe. If expansion is merited, we'll then explore the possibility of scaling up our efforts. Soon we hope to supply WOOF with enough plastic that they are able to also expand their own work.
If all of this comes to pass, WOOF will in turn supply UWGP and UW Recycling by printing compost bins for us. We can then seed these compost bins on campus to help change the fact that over 60% of what UW sends to landfills is compostable. In this way we hope to supply WOOF while also pushing for a more efficient waste system -- and therefore greater sustainability -- for campus overall. It's a pipe dream for now, of course, but we're excited about the possibilities.