Crowdsourcing  Waste PLA Recycling Challenge



The rising popularity of 3D printing represents an exciting technology and innovative change in the way things are made. Not only limited to large manufacturing companies, 3D printing technology has provided an incredible platform for a wide variety of industries, manufacturers, small businesses, and individuals to create and innovate in their fields. From functional prints for everyday use, to medical and even aerospace engineering applications 3D printing is changing the way we design, prototype and create. As this usage continues to rise, sustainable measures and practices are becoming a larger and larger priority. While 3D printing provides a much cheaper and somewhat environmentally friendly option, as anyone with a 3D printer knows, filament waste tends to build up fairly quickly. This waste comes in the form of support material, failed print, and obsolete projects. 


Along with its use in industry, 3D printing is becoming more and more prominent in education. This technology represents a wonderful tool that can be integrated into a number of different curriculum topics including robotics, design, programming, physics, math etc. This competition aims to utilize 3D printed waste filament as an opportunity to educate students about the importance of sustainable development, technology and practices. Furthermore, we challenge students to propose creative and innovative ways to recycle or reuse waste filament in their local community.


What is PLA?


PLA is one of the most popular materials used in 3D printing. It is also often used in items like yogurt containers, plastic utencils, and manufacturing processes such as "lost pla casting". This material is commonly referred to as the easiest to get consistent, impressive looking prints. PLA is a nontoxic, bio-degradable material derived from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane so it is less of an environmental burden than other materials.


Learn more about PLA here


The Challenge: 

This challenge is open to any high school student across Alberta. We challenge you to propose and develop a plan to convert waste PLA material or reuse it to create a new useful product or tool. This plan should include everything someone would need to properly execute this proposed idea including a budget, bill of materials, and detailed description of exactly how you propose the material will go from waste filament to the final product, describing every step along the way. 


You can build and improve upon previous applications and technologies or create something completely novel. You must clearly articulate how your potential solution or product will be used in the real world, and what differentiates it from existing approaches and products.


Extra high school credit available to all Alberta students for participating in this challenge through Innovate High School with the Argyll Centre through Edmonton Public School Board. Contact us for more details.


We highly recccomend having a teacher help spearhead or champion a school teams involvment.


The top 10 submissions will be selected from a panel of recycling industry experts to be finalists. Finalists will be invited to build a working prototype to showcase at a live final event. 


Deliverables to be selected as a finalist:

A detailed and viable plan for a sustainable final product or tool which is built or created (in part) using waste PLA materials.



*This challenge is for recycling waste PLA only. No other materials are to be considered for your proposal*


Project Description – a detailed description clearly identifying the problem and how your proposal aims to address it with a realistic and innovative solution.  


Technical Approach – A detailed methodology, describing how your solution works and how you will build and implement it.


Budget/Materials –  A budget estimate and list of materials and equipment you will need to build your proposed solution.


Challenges/Limitation - PLA as a material has a number of limitations including its low melting temperature and tensile strength. Also, special precautions are needed in order to process waste PLA into something that is food safe for example. Make sure that you clearly explain how you will address the challenges and limitations that come with PLA.


Timeline – Expected length of time needed to develop a first iteration of the proposed solution, including identifiable milestones.


Economic Viability – A complete breakdown of the economics of utilizing your technology or solution. How much money goes in to producing the equipment, inputs, etc vs how much the output can viably be sold for.

Judging Criteria:



  • Technical Approach: Is your technical approach and methodology realistic? Is your team capable of actually producing the proposed solution? Proposing a $5 million dollar facility is not exactly realistic in this case. We want you to think creatively using equipment and solutions that you have available to you.
  • Plan: Does your plan clearly define how your final end product or solution can be created and used in the real world? What function does the final product serve? Is this an actual useful tool or product? A poor example for a solution would be to create a desk ornament. Make sure your final product or solution serve an actual purpose in the real world.

Novelty – How does your solution or product compare to existing technologies and applications? What makes it different?

Impact – How will your project impact sustainable development and practices? Does this proposed solution have the ability to be used by many people or only a few? We are looking for solutions that can be scaled up to solve the growing problem of waste PLA.

Challenges/Limitation - How do you plan to address the limitations of PLA? Have you performed any initial tests to see if the material can stand up to your proposed process or solution? If you are proposing a solution that interacts with food, how will you make the material food safe?

Overall Presentation – Is your proposal clear, concise and easy to understand? Can this plan be given to a classmate or parent and they would be able to put this into action themselves?


Tips for getting your application selected:

  •  Make sure your proposal explains how your proposed solution can be used in a practical way
  •  Explain why your solution is innovative or unique compared to existing technologies
  •  Explain how your proposed plan takes waste PLA filament/parts and transforms them into a reusable state or product that serves a function. Ensure your proposal explains every step in the process
  • Include detailed timeline to build and implement your solution, include milestones and key deliverables
  • Proposal should be clear, concise and free of grammatical errors



First Place

First place grand prize will be a brand new Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer!


What is included:


  • An SD card, glue stick, grease, hex wrenches and a USB cable
  • Swappable 0.25, 0.4, 0.6 and 0.8 mm nozzles
  • A 0.75 kg spool of Ultimaker Silver PLA
  • Cura, Ultimaker's award-winning print preparation software
  • Powerful Ultimaker app
  • A calibration card to level the build plate
  • Comprehensive 12 month warranty
  • Lifetime expert support from Print Your Mind 3D
  • An active global community of makers

More prizes to be announced in the coming weeks!

Frequently Asked Questions


Is there a budget for teams? 

While there is no budget for the challenge, your team's proposal will be partially judged on how resourceful you are. The best solutions may not be the ones that require the most expensive equipment.



Challenge Timeline


September 15th, 2018 - Call for proposals begins

November 15th, 2018 - Deadline to submit proposals

December 8th, 2018 - Finalists selected 

June 15th, 2019 - Live final event in Calgary, Alberta

Interested in taking on the challenge? 

Register today!


Completed proposals can be submitted to

Have any additional questions? Contact Colin Pischke at or call 587-226-2645

Learn more about Print Your Mind 3D


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