3D Printing Filaments & Sustainability
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Regardless of the filaments used, desktop 3D printing and its FFF technology can contribute to a more sustainable future. However, your choice of filament can also contribute to a more sustainable environment in the future. The two most common used thermoplastics for desktop 3D printing nowadays are ABS and PLA.
ABS (or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene in full) is a thermoplastic which, as its name implies, is produced by the polymerization of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. ABS is produced from fossil fuels, meaning that it is not biodegradable and has a greater environmental impact than PLA for instance.
PLA (or Poly-Lactic Acid in full) on the other hand is a thermoplastic which is extruded from the starch of plants, such as corn, cassava, sugarcane, cereals, or sugar beet. By being derived from biological resources this type of thermoplastic can be biodegradable under the right conditions (such as an active compost heap, with enough presence of oxygen) and therefore has a much lesser environmental impact than thermoplastics derived from fossil fuels.