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How Green are 3D Printing Users?

Consumer awareness around sustainability has vastly increased in recent years; the debate about plastic specifically has transitioned from fringe debates into the mainstream. A 2018 Nielsen report highlighted that 81% of those surveyed felt strongly that companies should help to improve the environment

As a provider of 3D printer filament made from recycled sources (where possible), sustainability is central to our ethos and business model. As such, in early 2019 we carried our a Material Sustainability survey which gathered more than 200 responses from 3D printer users – ranging from at-home hobbyists to professionals working in global businesses. 

This post will specifically focus on the attitudinal questions regarding environmental matters, as well as market demand for recycled materials in order to ascertain,  How Green are 3D Printing Users?

After sending the survey to current customers, email database and sharing via social media and industry partners, 206 responses were received. 59.80% of respondents regarded themselves as hobbyists users, 26.47% were business / professional users – with the remainder classifying themselves as researchers / education / community users of 3D printing.

Green Value

One section of the survey consisted of questions aimed to gauge the green value of respondents – essentially their attitude to the environment / plastic problem. 

As seen in the charts above, 97.55% considered plastic pollution to be a problem and even more – 99.51% – believed it is important for them, as individuals, to act sustainably in general. Both results evident strong beliefs towards environmental sustainability. 

The third question surrounding attitude to the environment / plastic problem was more specific to 3D printing – asking whether they believe the rise in plastic use due to 3D printing to be a problem. Interestingly, the response to this question was more mixed – even still, more than two-thirds of those asked said Yes – clearly stating their thought that rising plastic use in 3D printing is a problem

This could be explained by the fact that 3D printing is fundamentally less wasteful than traditional, subtractive manufacturing methods and so on quick assessment it is more sustainable than other forms of ‘making’. However, the use of plastic as a feedstock will only increase demand for plastic.

Market Demand

The following section of the survey was geared towards market demand

98.54% of respondents indicated their preference for filament made from recycled material.

Aggregating this with the results from the green value questions in the section previous, there is a very strong correlation between environmental awareness and market demand – in summary we can conclude that 3D printing users are environmentally aware and this highly influences their purchasing intention. 

The second question in this section sought to discover underlying motivations. As seen in the chart above, lowering environmental impact was cited as their primary reason for using recycled material in 3D printing – which again correlates with stated (strong) environment awareness. 

The second most popular answer – satisfy growing environmental awareness amongst stakeholders – is also significant as it reflects the findings of the aforementioned 2018 Nielsen report which highlighted that 81% (of those surveyed) felt strongly that companies should help to improve the environment. 


Consumer awareness around sustainability has vastly increased in recent years and as seen in the results from this survey, it is clear that 3D printing users are extremely environmentally aware.

Despite the narrow view that 3D printing is sustainable, most are concerned that rising plastic use in 3D printing is a problem. As such, the overwhelming majority use / wish to use recycled materials – as opposed to virgin alternatives which will only worsen our plastic problem – in order to lower the environmental impact of 3D printing.


Recycled 3D Printer Filament

At Filamentive, environmental sustainability is central to our business model. In order to reduce the impact of (FFF) 3D printing and mitigate the Plastic Problem we commit to:

  • Using recycled materials (both post-consumer and post-industrial) where possible 
  • Avoid the use of new, virgin polymers to reduce energy and demand for raw materials. 
  • Utlise plant-based bioplastics when there is no recycled alternative
  • Using 100% recyclable cardboard spools to further reduce waste

UK business ceases filament supply

As some of you may be aware, UK filament brand,, recently announced that they are ceasing to supply filaments to the 3D printing world. have served thousands of 3D printer users over the last 5 years and earned a strong reputation in the market, with a clear passion for high quality and great customer service – sentiments we echo here at Filamentive, and values all businesses should strive for.

To help ensure continuity of supply, we have a special offer for customers: 

Please use code RIGID20 for 20% OFF your first order

Offer ends 30th November 2019. Cannot be used in conjunction with other discount codes and / or sale items.

Please note: This is NOT officially endorsed by – we’re just offering such a promotion to proactively support those requiring filament from a new supplier.

We hope that this offer is not viewed as insincere in anyway. Naturally, this is a sensitive situation and the team at have our best wishes as they pivot towards a new beginning with the Institute of 3D Printing.

As a fellow UK brand, who also uphold high levels of product quality and customer service, we aim to offer customers continuity of supply and filament they can rely on – whether printing for pleasure, profit, or both! 

If there are any questions related to this or just about Filamentive and our products in general, please don’t hesitate to contact us our professional and friendly team:


T: +44 (0) 333 366 0020

For those interested in the 3D printing training suite, please click here for more information.

Filamentive join Ultimaker Material Alliance Program

Bradford, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom – 21 August 2019 – Filamentive is pleased to announce our participation in The Ultimaker Material Alliance Program –  a collaboration allowing filament companies to offer their products in Ultimaker Marketplace. 

Four of our 3D printing filaments – ASA, Carbon Fibre, PETg and PLA – have been added to the Ultimaker Marketplace. In-line with our production model and sustainability policy, the named materials feature high-percentage recycled content declared according to the standards of ISO 14021.

As such, these four products will be listed in the Ultimaker software and all 3D printing settings will be provided to make sure that we can together offer unprecedented hassle-free printing, first-time-right-printing and ease of use to our joint end-users – substantially improving printing reliability and printing quality.

Ravi Toor, Managing Director at Filamentive: “Plastic waste is a global problem, and technology such as 3D printing has the power to facilitate sustainable development and resource efficiency. With more than 100,000 Ultimaker users in the professional market and 3 million Cura users worldwide, the availability of Filamentive material profiles will increase the awareness, credibility and ultimately use of recycled materials to further reduce the environmental impact of FFF 3D printing.”

Bart van As, Product Manager Materials at Ultimaker: “Ultimaker Printers are suitable for professional 3D printing by offering a hassle free 3D printing experience with industrial-grade materials. We are very proud to inform the market that 4 different types of filaments of Filamentive will soon be available through the Ultimaker Marketplace.

These print profiles have been optimized using Ultimaker’s specialized software that is available to partners in our Ultimaker Material Alliance Program. 3D printing professionals worldwide can soon use FFF technology to print with a recycled material in order to achieve beautifully designed results printed in 3D. With this addition, the Ultimaker Marketplace offers even more solutions catering to the needs of our customers.”

About Ultimaker

Since  2011, Ultimaker  has built an open  and easy to use solution  of 3D printers, software, and materials that enable professional designers and engineers to innovate every day. Today, Ultimaker is the market leader in desktop 3D printing. From offices in the Netherlands, New York, Boston, and Singapore – plus production facilities in Europe and the US – its global team of over 400 employees work together to accelerate the world’s transition to digital distribution  and local manufacturing.

About Filamentive

Filamentive is the market leader in sustainable materials for FFF 3D Printing. The company was founded to address the environmental need to use more recycled plastics in 3D printing, and also alleviate market concerns over quality and long-term sustainability. Filamentive has experienced rapid growth and continues to address the questions surrounding 3D printing recycled materials. Headquartered in Bradford, United Kingdom, its customers include a global network of makers, businesses and education clients.

The Greener Filament Spool – MasterSpool vs Cardboard

Having sustainability at the heart of our company’s operations, any initiative that aims to reduce wastage and use less plastic in 3D printing is welcomed by us. The MasterSpool initiative certainly grabbed our attention when it was first conceptualised (even before companies started picking it up). Needless to say, we followed its development very closely and did our own research to find a way to integrate it into our system. However, in the end we decided to go with cardboard spools instead. But why? In this post we break down some of the issues we identified with MasterSpool while determining our options for the “greener spool”.

For a start, our main product line at that time consisted of 1kg spools, not 750g (Although we do offer this weight too now).  However, even if we moved to MasterSpool completely, the total weight considered for shipping a spool of filament would still be over 1kg so the cost savings would be minimal, if there would be any at all. Understandably, the companies that were previously offering 750g spools would be more receptive to this from a cost-saving point of view. 

We also feel that 1kg spools are more sustainable than the 750g counterparts. Let’s take an example of a client who uses 150kg over a period of time. This is equivalent to 150 spools of 1kg reels or 200 spools of 750g reels. Buying in 750g quantities means 50 extra spools would have to be shipped to achieve the same weight! Think of all the extra packaging, transport emissions and carbon footprint impact in general!

We provide ourselves on being customer-centric; when we liaised with some of our regular customers, many felt that using the MasterSpool would prove to be an inconvenience – especially those with multiple 3D printers – as they would have to constantly print extra spools to accommodate the MasterSpool format of filaments. Many of our clients run 3D-print farms – with some running 24 hour production they’d rather be printing actual jobs, not holders for the spools! 

Image by Tom Jackson / @FilamentFrenzy

Our production partners also informed us that to accommodate MasterSpool, the winding equipment would have to be modified, cable ties would have to be added and the packaging process is completely different. All of these increase the manufacturing costs and would have to be passed onto our customers, which we were not too keen on doing. Moreover, as the format inherently requires more human intervention, it increases the likelihood of a coil coming loose, which can cause winding issues or bends within the filament rolls.

However, we wanted to know what our customers wanted as well. We sent out a survey (>200 respondents) that explored this concept further and these were the results.

Survey results

Almost two-thirds of the survey participants were in favour of cardboard spools! This was a big eye opener for us as we initially believed that it would be a close battle between cardboard spools and the MasterSpool concept.

Knowing the sentiments of our customers and doing our own research, we decided that cardboard spools were the best way forward for us. Cardboard is a widely recycled material that can easily be recycled after use by both consumers and industrial users. The spools would provide a strong and durable base that protects the filament in transit and in storage. Moreover, as the cardboard spools are 10% lighter than their ABS counterparts, it is better for shipping and it has a lower environmental carbon footprint during transportation. 

In conclusion, whilst we see the merits of MasterSpool, cardboard seemed the more sustainable and efficient option – given our user-base, existing product weights and production feasibility.

We are happy to be one of the first filament brands to provide high-quality filament reeled on cardboard spools and for the benefit of our planet we would love to see more brands follow our lead with sustainable spool solutions – be it cardboard, MasterSpool or even a new innovation!

Check out our entire product range here! 

Hopefully this has been an interesting and informative read – feel free to visit for more information or email us.

How Sustainable is PLA?

“Is PLA is sustainable?” “Is PLA is biodegradable?” “Is PLA is compostable?” “Is PLA is recyclable?”.

As a brand of 3D printer filament, questions like this are received on an almost daily basis. As sustainability is central to our business model and ethos, we feel it is our duty to interrogate the cliché environmental claims.

This post seeks to therefore explore the credibility of each of the four key environmental benefits put forward by industry and marketers alike.

3D Printing

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is one of the main types of 3D printing. FDM is an additive manufacturing process in which a thin filament of plastic wire feeds a 3D printer; the print head melts it and extrudes it onto a build plate.

PLA is the most popular 3D printing filament material – as exemplified in a recent survey which shows that more than 95% of 3D printing users use PLA. 

Most Popular 3D Printer Filament Materials

Is PLA Sustainable?

Growth of Crops Used to Make PLA

Bioplastic refers to plastic made from plant / biological material instead of oil. Polylactic acid / polylactide (PLA) is an example of a bioplastic.

However, bioplastics – such as PLA – compete for land with food crops. According to the Guardian, bioplastics need several million acres of farmland, which reduces the space available for food crops growth. However, this problem may be over-stated as according to an estimation by European Bioplastics, “… the land area used to grow biomass for the production of bioplastics in 2017 corresponded to 0.016 percent of the global agricultural area, 97 percent of which are used to grow food and feed. Even with the predicted high growth-rates… the land-use share would only slightly increase to up to 0.021 percent of the agricultural area by 2022.”

Is PLA Biodegradable?

Biodegrading of Plastic

Biodegradability refers to the ability of a material to decompose after interactions with biological elements. Whilst PLA is biodegradable, it does so very slowly. Analysts estimate that a PLA bottle could take up to 1000 years to decompose in a landfill. Even NatureWorks, the world’s largest producer of PLA, have openly accepted that its products would not fully break down on landfill sites. 

Is PLA Compostable? 

Composting Process

While biodegradable materials are designed to break down within landfills, compostable materials require special composting conditions.

According to Elizabeth Royte, writing in Smithsonian, ‘PLA is said to decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a controlled composting environment in fewer than 90 days. However, ‘controlled composting environment’ refers to industrial composting facility heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and fed a steady diet of digestive microbes. 

Whilst this proves PLA is biodegradable / compostable, again it’s a feasibility versus practicality argument. The Guardian found that only a handful of anaerobic digesters exist in Britain, and even then without a centralised collection infrastructure the average consumer is unable to access such facilities.  

Is PLA Recyclable?

Recycling Process

As concluded in a 2016 academic paper, “…mechanical recycling presented the lowest environmental impact…”. The (mechanical) recycling process of PLA includes the following steps: separation, grinding, washing, drying, extrusion, cooling, granulation and sieving of recycled PLA. 

Whilst recycling PLA is certainly feasible it is not necessarily practical. Because PLA of different origin than regular plastic, it must be kept separate when recycled, otherwise it can contaminate the recycling stream – thus making such streams unsaleable. As the BBC stated in February 2019, the technology for plant-based compostables has come so far that it is hard to tell which is plastic and which is bio-plastic (PLA). 

Some 3D printing users are recycling their (PLA) 3D printing waste by shredding failed / unwanted 3D-prints and using a desktop extruder to remanufacture into filament. Whilst this is indeed a useful way to recycle 3D printing waste and avoid landfill, it is far from cheapmany desktop extruders will set you back hundreds of pounds – and many challenges exist, as we discussed in a recent blog post. 



Whilst there are elements of greenwashing when it comes to the marketing of PLA, the evidence still suggests it is a step in the right direction in our attempts to reduce the consumption of non-renewable petroleum. Not only is PLA plant-based, but [according to Natureworks] it also emits a fraction of the greenhouse gases compared to other plastics, as well as much less energy intensive.

Specific to 3D printing, the improvement of 3D printing hardware and slicing software is reducing print failures and thus wastage. Of course the ease of 3D printing will still breed masses of unwanted prints, however, low cost, upcycling solutions do exists, as we discussed in our recent blog: What to do with Failed Prints and 3D Printing Waste.

In order to work towards a circular economy framework for bioplastics such as PLA, investment is required to catalyse technological innovation in order to develop a sustainable recovery infrastructure for bioplastics such as PLA. Once achieved this will give rise to further landfill avoidance and an increase in PLA recycling – be it mechanical recycling or composting.


Filamentive PLA 3D Printer Filament

Whilst at its core 3D printing is fundamentally less wasteful than traditional, subtractive manufacturing methods, academic research has found that “material sustainability is an issue that can no longer be ignored due to wide adoption of 3D printing”. The use of plastic as a feedstock has the potential to exacerbate the global plastic epidemic unless we can find a sustainable solution.

Filamentive, a brand of high quality 3D printing filament, with a primary objective to drive environmental change in 3D printing.

Recycled PLA – sourced from post-industrial extrusion waste – is used in lieu of virgin PLA where possible – in fact in 2018, more than half of all PLA filament produced was made from recycled sources, resulting in:

  • Reduced environmental impact of plastic-rich products
  • Minimised plastic being sent to the diminishing landfill sites
  • Avoided the consumption of the Earth’s oil stocks
  • Consumed less energy than producing new, virgin polymers

More information of the Filamentive filament production process can be found here.

Hopefully this has been an interesting and informative read – feel free to visit for more information or email us.

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