ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION BY 3D PRINTING: RAISING AWARENESS OF PLASTIC WASTE RECYCLING FOR ENGINEERED INNOVATIVE EDUCATIONAL TOOLS IN THE CLASSROOM
The circular economy is gaining growing attention as a way for reducing demands on finite raw materials and minimizing negative externalities. To attain these goals, new trends on circular economy have been explored based on systemic approaches, which require the involvement and commitment of different actors, from citizens to policy makers. Plastics have been identified as a priority for circular economy implementation, since the principles of this economy can significantly contribute to optimize material flows and reduce negative externalities, such as plastic leakage into oceans. This paper describes an educational project that empowers children to reduce waste in schools and strengthens the role of end-users in building a more sustainable world. The ReShape IT project was designed as a way of encouraging students’ participation as the key drivers in the value and supply chain of an eco-innovative solution for the development of 3D printed educational tools, such as world maps, geometric figures, supports for school materials, boards, prototypes for specific internal projects, among others, from recycled plastics. Students are encouraged to easily separate specific domestic waste (HDPE, PET), simply by looking at their recycling codes (1 or 2). This waste is the recycled and integrated into educational tools. Additionally, students will be granted with ‘points’ convertible into discounts in the acquisition of educational materials for the schools. It is also a project's ambition to improve the interaction between citizens and the different actors in this “closed-loop”, being envisaged a strong commitment of municipalities and local communities to promote a more efficient use of resources, increasing the awareness on the impact of circular economy in sustainability. The project considers the implementation of new processes to recover/recycle plastics from wastes, modifying the existing collecting and sorting systems (directly implemented at schools through a recycling rewards scheme). In this sense, it will improve waste collection approaches by encouraging behavioural changes and increase public awareness and social involvement to promote recycling and enable a greater involvement of end-users, i.e. students, their families, and education professionals and municipalities. Moreover, the students are engaged in the entire recycling process, from the implementation of the collecting schemes, the materials processing, to the design of the educational tools. As such, the recyclability assessment of recovered plastic waste and optimization of converting processes parameters (by 3D printing of plastic filament) will be performed to design and manufacture innovative educational tools and devices according to the specific needs of the end-users (students and schools) and educational requirements. This project is therefore aligned with Europe 2020 strategy for the Sustainable Growth, by stimulating and engaging the society, in particular children and educational professionals, to promote a more efficient use of the resources, and mobilizing the industrial symbiosis by transforming the plastic waste collected into valuable raw materials for the generation of educational tools and devices, ultimately fostering the creation of a more sustainably-minded society.