If the masses were not already aware, the environment needs substantial help, lest the consequences be dire. Even though few people agree on the details of the best way to sort society’s environmental problems, plenty of organizations across the world are availing themselves of their own resources. Paper Province of Karlstad is an industrial cluster that avails itself of Sweden’s abundant forest, aiming to turn away from plastic(s) and towards wood and paper-based products. Paper Province is supported by the European Union Cohesion Fund, planting three new trees for every one that is harvested. In contrast to the world’s shrinking forests, European Union forests have been expanding over the past 60 years.
One company working in the Paper Province industrial cluster is Melker Kayaks of Hammarö, owned by Pelle Stafshede, who uses a 3D printer that runs on corn and wood pellets to manufacture “sustainable” kayaks. Stafshede’s 3D wood printer is the largest of its kind in the world; it can print an entire kayak in a matter of hours, and failed prints can be shredded and/or recycled. The kayaks are printed with a honeycomb structure that makes them both stiff and lightweight.
Paper Province is working to demonstrate that the world’s industries can go beyond using fossil fuels and plastics. Whilst it is unrealistic to think that the world will stop using fossil fuels completely, environmental initiatives like Paper Province show that society does not have to depend on them so significantly and that alternatives exist. As of November 2018, the Paper Province industrial cluster has 103 member companies with a total annual turnover of circa €2.2 billion.
Given that 3D printing uses substantial quantities of plastic, justifiable concerns exist about its effects on the environment. However, companies like Melker Kayaks demonstrate that even 3D printing doesn’t have to depend on plastic, and can benefit from more sustainable and recyclable materials.
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