Can I return my empty filament spools?

What can I do with my empty filament spools?

Will you recycle my empty, plastic filament spools?


As a 3D printing filament brand, questions are received on an almost daily basis. Once finished with their 3D printing, users are often left with a mountain of plastic reels. In fact, a survey demonstrated that two-thirds of plastic filament spools are not being reused or recycled.


With empty spools potentially accounting for 20% of 3D printing waste generated, there is a growing demand from 3D printer operators to recycle / reuse empty filament spools from 3D printing.


This short article explains four solutions for recycling your empty filament spools.


Return your empty spools to the filament supplier

As a 3D printing provider ourselves, we know from experience that this is a customers’ first port of call. Whilst initially offered by us, this unfortunately, became infeasible due to warehouse constraints and sparse options with regard to reuse by our manufacturer or other recycling solutions. As 3DSolved concluded, most manufacturers stopped doing this since it’s not really financially viable.


That being said, we are firm believers in the saying “you don’t ask, you don’t get”. When researching this piece, we found that our friends over at 3DTomorrow, were offering a Cardboard Spool Return for Re-use Program. So it is worth asking your current filament supplier(s).


Resell your empty spools online

The secondhand market Is growing rapidly and with ever-increasing platforms online, thankfully it is becoming easier to access markets in which to sell your unwanted stuff – in this case, your empty spools from 3D printing! A quick search of eBay lists many sellers of empty plastic spools which demonstrates the viability of reselling your spools online. Not only does this option provide an environmental solution (reuse), but will also add a bit of spare change to your wallet!


Upcycle your empty spools

Upcycling represents a variety of processes by which “old” products get to be modified and get a second life as they’re turned into a “new” product. In a consumer society with an ever-increasing environmental awareness, upcycling has provided motivation to disrupt our existing take-make-waste culture, enabling the everyday person to simultaneously reduce their waste and create a new product from existing resources,


There are many examples of empty spools being upcycled into a useful product. In this interesting blog post, 3Dsourced present their 6 Top Ideas for empty spools:

  1. Drawer Organiser
  2. Christmas Lights holder
  3. Go-kart
  4. Paint Organiser
  5. Coat Hook
  6. 3D-Print Your Own Clock



The true solution to recycling your empty spools?

To reduce virgin material use and prevent further plastic pollution, Filamentive ensures 100% recyclable cardboard spools for all ≤2.3 kg products. 


In the UK specifically, cardboard can be widely recycled at home (recycling bins). Not only does this make recycling incredibly easy, but also free as you’re simply utilising the existing recycle service available to you.


On the subject of sustainable spooling, an honourable mention to MasterSpool – a standard for 3D printing filament supply without the need for any spool. For a comparison of cardboard spools versus Masterspool for 3D printing, see this blog post.


Hopefully, this blog post has provided tangible solutions on how to recycle your empty spools.


As 3D printing grows, the hope is that more 3D printer operators switch to more sustainable, cardboard-spooled filament options – further eliminating hard-to-recycle plastic empty spools!