Cottage crafts and sustainability for Pacific Island nations
Natural beauty re-imagined, re-created, re-cycled
Traditional designs inspire modern artefacts
Preserving nature by recycling waste products into desirable gifts
Growing up in New Zealand and Samoa – in the minds of others perceived as an idyllic island in the Pacific – has given Lionel Taito-Matamua a different perspective on most things that Westerners take for granted. For example clean water and responsible waste management. As a young Design Innovation student he was immersed in a teaching culture that not only recognizes and nurtures cultural bonds, but also develops ethical creativity. During his studies he was surrounded by research and projects involving all aspects of 3d printing. The research into the world’s first RecycleBot (recycling 3D printing waste into reusable filament for the printers) by Victoria University in Wellington in 2010 gave him reassurance that new technologies can be used ethically. For his Master of Design Innovation thesis “Renewing Materials: 3D Printing and Distributed Recycling Disrupting Samoa’s Plastic Waste Stream” – supervised by Simon Fraser and Jeongbin Ok – he examined how new 3D printing technology development could help to achieve a better and sustainable balance for Samoa and its population.
Most New Zealanders have access to clean drinking water and monitored, regular rubbish disposal. But if you want to quench your thirst while in Samoa, most will resort to drinking from imported water bottles. As a small island nation the national rainfall is not enough anymore to replenish bores and acquifers to cater for the growing rate of population and visitors. On top of that, the increase in population has not been met with an improvement of the local infrastructure and as a result cannot cope with the increase in refuse and waste. Pollution of waterways and urban areas has increased manifold with one major culprit identified: disposable plastic water bottles, imported from overseas.
Plastic: curse or blessing
Drinking water is of vital importance to life and as such high quality must be ensured one way or another. For Samoans it is a blessing that they can import water in durable, lightweight plastic bottles and give to their families. At the moment it is not likely that the infrastructure to monitor and maintain the local waterways and water works will get upgraded. Upgrades involve high costs that this nation cannot meet on its own. Thus the mountains of plastic waste grow all over the island. As the local government enlists international aid in tackling the larger issues at hand, Lionel has developed ideas how to support the local people and encourage the development of businesses that exploit the curse and turn it into a blessing.
Lionel explored how cottage industries could take advantage of the latest developments in recycling plastic waste into filament for 3D printers. With a rich and lively culture in artisan crafts, Samoans create income by making souvenirs for tourists. He suggests recycling the imported water bottles to create decorative and practical items for the tourists to purchase and take back home. During his research he discovered that many traditional objects could be translated or adapted through 3D printing into desirable modern objects. The introduction of the new technology could re-invigorate village activities and structures, creating opportunities for the individual and the community.
Keeping the future in mind
Throughout his research Lionel had established and maintained contact with local authorities and representatives of various industries. Upon completion of the thesis he approached them with the intention of making those research result come to life. His proposals were also submitted to the New Zealand Innovators Awards: ‘Innovation in Sustainability and Cleantech’ category of the New Zealand Innovators Awards and ‘Young New Zealand Innovator Awards’ and was named finalist in both categories. As he continues to develop and promote his ideas, recycling technology evolves to make them an everyday reality for Samoa and other island nations rather sooner than later.
Materials and processes – close-up
For his research Lionel set up a low cost laboratory with Filabot Reclaimer, Filabot Original Extruder and an Up Mini FDM printer. He identified the different types of waste plastic and recorded the results for every stage of the process and was able to create a good quality 3D print with recycled filament on a modified printer.
Born in New Zealand and with strong ties to Samoa, he was taken aback during a family visit at the level of pollution everywhere. As a new design student he was keen to utilize the expert knowledge base of Victoria University staff and to develop ideas and methods to alleviate this problem. With his strong commitment, his thesis has become more than just another university degree, it is working to make an impact on real life. Now and in the future.