Common Enzyme Breaks Down PLA Fast

The global issue of plastic waste has prompted scientists to seek innovative solutions for recycling. Single-use plastics, notorious for their environmental impact, require new methods for efficient and sustainable management. For some common plastics, though, salvation could be at hand, with researchers identifying a common enzyme that can be used to break them down fast.

Researchers at King’s College London have discovered an enzyme used in laundry detergents that can break down PLA plastics within 24 hours, using a little heat as an aid. Normally, this is achieved via composting methods that take weeks or months. This method transforms the plastics back into their original chemical components, offering a rapid and eco-friendly recycling process. The monomers can then be reused for manufacturing new plastic items.

One wonders if this could also be used in another way – perhaps in a multimaterial printer, allowing PLA to be used for supports and then broken down. It’s probably not that necessary, given other degradable materials exist, but it’s something to think about.

This project is a significant leap forward in recycling technology, showcasing the potential for enzymes to revolutionize how we handle plastic waste. It could also be a great way to recycle all those errant deformed Pikachus that keep ending up in your hackerspace’s 3D-printing waste basket. In any case, plastic waste is a problem the world needs to solve, and quickly, because it’s not going anywhere any time soon. Video after the break.

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3D Printing With Plastic Cutlery

How many plastic spoons, knives, and forks do you think we throw away daily? [Stefan] noted that the compostable type is made from PLA, so why shouldn’t you be able to recycle it into 3D printing stock? How did it work? Check it out in the video below.

[Stefan] already has a nice setup for extruding filament. However, unsurprisingly, it won’t accept spoons and forks directly. A blender didn’t help, so he used an industrial plastic shredder. It reduced the utensils to what looked like coarse dust, which he then dried out. After running it through the extruder, the resulting filament was thin and brittle. [Stefan] speculates the plastic was set up for injection molding, but it at least showed the concept had merit.

In a second attempt, he cut the ground-up utensils with fresh PLA in equal measures. That is, 50% of the mix was recycled, and half was not. That made much more usable filament. So did a different brand of compostable plasticware.

The real test was to take dirty plasticware. This time, he soaked utensils in tomato sauce overnight. He cleaned, dried, and shredded the plastic. This time, he used 20% new PLA and some pigment, as well. We aren’t sure this is worth the effort simply on economics, but if you are committed to recycling, this might be worth your while.

It always seems like it should be easy to extrude filament. Until you try to do it, of course. Recycling plastic bottles is especially popular.

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Saving The Planet With Carefully Cut Paper

You may not think much of origami or its cousin-with-cutouts kirigami, but the latter could (and already is) helping to save the planet. But let’s back up a bit.

Most readers will be familiar with origami, the Japanese art of folding paper. But there is also kirigami, which uses a series of cuts to produce 3D shapes from 2D stock. Turns out that if you cut paper just right, you can turn it into highly-recyclable packaging that even interlocks with itself, negating the need for folding or even tape.

The video after the break takes a look at 3M’s Scotch Cushion Lock™ protective wrap through the eyes of its inventor, Tom Corrigan. It all started when 3M wanted to create a self-assembling box from a flat piece of cardboard.

So far, that particular invention hasn’t come to fruition, but after many long nights with paper and X-Acto knives, Tom came up with a honeycomb design with strong vertical walls that absorb energy much like bubble wrap or packing peanuts. The toothiness of each honeycomb wall adds height which adds strength, and allows the packaging to interlock with itself.

Not only is this packaging easier to recycle, it takes up way less space than other packaging alternatives. Once expanded, a 1,000 square foot roll of this stuff is equal to 2,500 square feet of bubble wrap, which constitutes about a dozen rolls.

Now, what to do about all that expanded polystyrene packaging still out there? With the right tool, you can turn it into insulation.

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Recycling Batteries With Bacteria

Vehicle battery recycling is going to be a big deal with all the electric cars hitting the roads. What if you could do it more effectively with the power of microbes? (via Electrek)

“Li-ion” vehicle batteries can be any of a number of different chemistries, with more complex cathode makeups, like NCM (LiNixMnyCo1-x-yO2), being understandably more complex to separate into their original constituents. Researchers and companies in the industry are hoping to find economically-viable ways to get these metals back for both the environmental and economic benefits a closed loop system could provide.

Researchers in the UK developed a method using two species of bacteria to precipitate Ni, Mn, and Co from the liquid leached from cathodes. Li remained in the liquid where it could be processed separately like that obtained in Li brine. Mn was precipitated first by S. oneidensis MR-1, and a following step removed Ni and Co with D. alaskensis G20. The researchers report that Ni and Co show promise for further separation via biological methods, but more research is required for this step.

If you’re looking for some more interesting ways bacteria can be harnessed for the energy system, checkout this microbial fuel cell, another using soil, and an enzyme derived from bacteria that can pull electricity from thin air.

What Can You Do With Thousands Of Vintage Telephones?

Telephones. We’ve got a few around the place, and some may remember all the weird and wonderful varieties produced over the years. But, vintage phone dealers [Ron and Mary Knappen] may have a few too many. With a large 41,000 sqft property, at least three farm buildings, and no fewer than 33 semi-trailers loaded to busting with racks of phones, the retiring couple have a job sorting it all out and finding someone passionate enough to take over this once-strong business.

Technology has moved on somewhat since 1971 when they got into the retro business, and there are only so many period dramas being produced that could make a dent in a collection of a thousand steel desk phones. Nobody seems interested in taking on their business, so they are concentrating on emptying that large property in order to sell it, but the fate of the crazy number of other storage locations seems uncertain. Perhaps, other than a few museums around the world purchasing a few, this collection really is likely heading to the recyclers.

So what can we do with a vintage phone in this modern era? Here’s a primer to get you started. How about going cellular? Or maybe just add them to your existing designer collection?

Thanks to [Jeremy] and Adafruit for the tip!

Hack A Soda Can Into Jewelry

If you’ve ever needed some aluminum for a project, you might have noticed you have easy access to aluminum cans. If you need a cylinder, fine. But what if you don’t? [ThescientistformerlyknownasNaegeli] shows how to create an attractive necklace from two soda cans, and we think the techniques might be usable for other cases where you might need aluminum. If you care more about the necklace, it looks good. You only have to add a 3D-printed clasp or, if you prefer, you can buy a clasp and use that. For the Hackaday crowd, you can also use the resulting structure as an aluminum cable shield, which might better suit you.

The post gives more details and points to other posts for even deeper dives into many of the steps. But the basic idea is you strip the ink from the outside of the can and then cut the can into a strip. The mechanism for that looks a lot like a machine to cut plastic bottles into strips, but that method isn’t feasible without special blades.

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Reducing Poop On Multicolor Prints

While multicolor printing eliminates painting steps and produces vibrant objects, there are two significant downsides; filament consumption and print time. A single-nozzle filament printer needs to switch from one color to another, and doing so involves switching to the other filament and then purging the transition filament that contains a mixture of both colors, before resuming the print with the clean new color.

[teachingtech] tests out a variety of methods for reducing print time and waste. One surprising result was that purging into the infill didn’t result in significant savings, even when the infill was as high as 50%. Things that did have a positive effect included reducing the amount of purge per transition based on light to dark color changes, and printing multiple copies at once so that even though the total amount of waste was the same as a single part, the waste per part was reduced.

All of the tests were with the same model, which had 229 color changes within a small part, so your mileage may vary, but it’s an interesting investigation into some of the deeper settings within the slicer. Reducing filament waste and print time is an admirable goal, and if you make your own extruder, you can turn all of that purge waste into various shades of greenish brownish filament. Continue reading “Reducing Poop On Multicolor Prints”