Printing prosthetic arms from plastic bottle tops

ProPortion Food staff have joined a movement to collect plastic bottle tops.

This follows Nikki’s inspiration to launch a bottle top drop bin at the company’s head office after attending a presentation on waste management and sustainability programs.

The plastic bottle tops will be made into 100 prosthetic hands for children using 3D printing, an initiative by community organisation Envision in their drive to collect one million of the tops.

Envision is mobilising schools and workplaces throughout Australia to contribute to their goal. So far they have redeemed more than 250,000 bottle tops – getting them a quarter of the way there.

Helping Hands

Although bottle tops are fully recyclable, ABC’s ‘War on Waste’ revealed that the tops fall through gaps in the machinery and end up in landfill, making them a major contributor to the world’s plastic pollution problem.

Envision’s overarching mission is to engage disadvantaged job seekers in innovative projects to help them develop work skills while reducing the planet’s carbon footprint by using upcycled and recycled products.

After experimenting with bottle caps, made from high density poly-ethylene (HDPA), they successfully used them to create ‘ink’ for 3D printers.

While collecting the caps, they discovered E-nable, an enterprise that links amputees in war-torn and developing countries with volunteer 3D printers. This is made possible by a drop in prices of 3D printers, from $10,000 to $700.

The resulting “Helping Hands” initiative is a joint venture between Envision, Wyndham City and Rotary International.

After workers sift through the bottle tops, the tops are shredded and melted into a filament. This filament is then 3D printed into prosthetic hands.

And the hands are not just static bits of plastic; they can move and grasp objects.

Envision’s Facebook page shows prosthetic hands proudly created by groups in Surrey Hills, Werribee, and Bendigo. The first hand was shipped off to a grateful young boy in India earlier in the year.

Joining in

Envision is seeking support from organisations and schools to meet – and exceed – their plastic bottle top goals. Visit their website for posters and flyers.

More broadly, they are offering corporate packages as they seek more organisations to join them in partnership.


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