Ethical Filament | Setting the standard for ethically produced 3D printer filament from recycled waste materials
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Ethical Filament

Setting the standard for ethically produced 3D printer filament from recycled waste materials, in partnership with waste pickers, industry specialists and local entrepreneurs.


15 million waste pickers worldwide collect, sort and process recyclable materials in cities in developing nations. Socially and environmentally, waste management is one of the biggest challenges for an increasingly urbanised world, yet waste pickers can earn as little as $2 a day in dangerous conditions with little opportunity for advancement, and make up some of the most disadvantaged communities living in dire poverty. They need a new market for sorted waste materials, one that will return higher pay and ensure businesses can grow and flourish.

The market for 3D printer filament (mostly commonly made from virgin plastic) is growing rapidly. Market experts predict the global 3D printing materials market could grow to $1.052 million by 2019. The cost of a Kg of filament is anywhere between $25 and $40 USD. However, in developing countries without strong transport or supply networks, this cost can go up to as much as $60 or even $80, preventing communities that are interested in using 3D printing from accessing the necessary supplies at a reasonable price.

The Ethical Filament Mark

The Ethical Filament mark will act as a globally recognised “fair trade” style brand, certifying the ethical credentials of the sourcing and production of filament, while coordinating and collaborating with local entrepreneurs building businesses to produce 3D printer filament from recycled waste materials, in partnership with waste picking communities.

Our unifying idea is a unique offering with filament sourced directly from waste picker groups in developing countries. Filament with the EF mark will be produced ethically on a ‘fair trade’ basis, enabling waste pickers to receive more income from the recyclable materials they collect. We are currently working with partners in India, Mexico, Colombia, Tanzania and Kenya to trial the technology needed to make the filament and are looking forward to building strong links with local waste picker communities.

Create and brand an ethical filament production standard and a certification process.

Promote the concept of recycling to produce ethical 3D printing filament that is sold to improve the livelihoods of waste pickers and their communities worldwide.

Sponsor research and development to improve the process for waste recycling at the grass roots level for use in 3D printing, releasing the results to the public domain for use on an unrestricted basis by social benefit organisations.

We are developing a set of ethical and technical standards against which we will certify producer organisations who will then be able to use our accreditation mark. We welcome your feedback on these documents which are definitely ‘work in progress’.
Download a copy of the ethical standardsDownload a copy of the technical standards

The Benefits

For Waste pickers


Waste pickers’ efforts to expand and formalise operations should be supported. This will result in greater resource recovery, more productive work and better working conditions. Ethical Filament branding ensures that a new and potentially highly beneficial revenue stream for waste pickers is established.

This will deliver a higher rate of return for collected and sorted waste, connected to a central body that will certify all filament is produced in a way that is ethical and supportive of waste picker communities.

Local Communities

local communities

3D printing offers communities in developing countries a way to design and manufacture the items they need locally and affordably, but accessing filament can be tricky in hard to reach locations.

Producing the filament locally from recycled waste means a reliable stream of material for communities to make the items they need without needing to import expensive supplies.

The Enviroment


Turning waste materials from landfills into filament presents a huge environmental positive for all involved. 3D printing reduces waste through targeted production and uses less energy than conventional manufacturing techniques, but the environmental benefits of the technology can be cancelled out by the demand created for virgin plastic filament.

Recycling is a cheap and fast way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, costing 30% less to reduce a ton of CO2 emissions than doing so through energy efficiency, and 90% less than using wind power. Ethical Filament provides a strong demand for recycled plastic and other forms of reusable materials.

Contact us

For our work in the media, conference presentations and journal mentions, please click through to the techfortrade Press page.
For further information you can get in touch with us at

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