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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.
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.
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.
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