Samoa is a low-lying island in the atoll of Micronesia. Like many of the small islands that dot the area, Samoa is having issues dealing with the large amounts of waste that are being generated by its large cities, such as Samoa’s capital, Apia. As you can imagine, dealing with waste on a semi-isolated island can be difficult, and the simplest solution has proven to be to dump it into the ocean or a landfill. Also unsurprisingly, this has begun to cause problems. On these islands, maintaining a clean supply of fresh water is critical to the day-to-day life of the pacific island inhabitants. This causes a major problem for Tarawa, an island to the north-west of Samoa, who has been forced to issue a ban on the consummation of sea-food from the area, because of the large amounts of trash that have begun to gather there from other islands, in what has been dubbed “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”.
Design student Lionel Taito-Matamua, believes he may have a solution to the problems. While visiting Samoa for his grandmother’s funeral, Taito-Matamua observed the pollution problem first hand. He believes that 3D printing may provide an efficient way to turn much of the islands non-natural waste into more useful tools. His growing project, which is still in the early stages of development, would take advantage of plastic repurposing techniques such as “plastic shredding and filament extrusion” to convert the waste into a 3D printable material. He also believes that they could be partnering with schools for this project, stating that “…we found that the education system could benefit from 3D printing in terms of Pacific Island students being kinesthetic learners. So having something to touch.” There is of course, much more to Taito-Matamua’s plans (you can learn more here), and after receiving the Innovation in Sustainability & Cleantech” award from the 2015 New Zealand Innovators Awards, it’s clear that Lionel, and 3D printing will help to inspire innovation in the Micronesia island chains.