Helping Watamu, Kenya fight marine waste with 3D printing & recycled filament.

As urbanisation continues, solid waste management is becoming an increasing public health and environmental concern in urban areas of many developing countries. Particularly in villages where the increasing population and lack of waste management facilities are resulting in solid waste pollution of terrestrial and marine environments.

Eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year, choking wildlife (WWF).

Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues today (National Geographic). Most of this is visible in developing Asian and African nations, where the waste management is inefficient or non-existent.

During the UN Environment Assembly 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya, the message was clear: single-use plastics are a major issue. With a call to look for alternatives and a significant reduction in use by 2030. However, at present, there is no UN agreement to end this crisis, despite some countries taking action against plastic pollution, with Kenya implementing a national ban on plastic bags which has been in place since 2017 (UN).

The Watamu Marine Park and Reserve beaches and environments have become increasingly impacted by plastic waste. 

Due to the nature of the ocean currents in the region, much of the waste is washed ashore from other countries in the Southwest Indian Ocean, threatening biodiversity. Along with the lack of waste collection sites and disposal facilities, a considerable amount of waste is dumped by locals on roadsides and wastelands. This problem is exacerbated by many people, such as tourists leaving plastic bottles and bags on beaches. 

The deterioration of the environment consequentially threatens health and welfare along with discouraging tourists, which has an impact via lack of income and employment.

Shane at Watamu beach clean

Watamu Marine Association is leading the way in public education, directly addressing problems and employing community members to collect solid waste from beaches, which is then recycled, reused or upcycled where possible.

The aim is to collect these waste materials from Watamu Marine Park beaches, hotels and resident’s private houses and then to process the materials for resale back to the plastic and glass production industries.

This enterprise provides a service to the community, residents, the tourism industry and the local Council and includes plastic and glass waste sorting, loading bays and plastic crushing machinery. 

The crushed plastic is sold to recycling industries in Mombasa and the glass is either used for the construction of walls, as a building aggregate or for making unique art installations.

The sorting and processing of waste materials are carried out by community group members who receive employment and income from the enterprise. Profits from recycling will sustain operations and expansion in the mid-term.

CREATE Education, want to make cutting-edge technologies accessible to all and working in partnership with The Rapid Foundation, (recent winners of the Special Prize Early Stage Concept Business Spirit Awards as part of the Responsible Innovation Summit), are focused on supporting Watamu Marine Association through the development of a 3D printing facility on-site at the Eco-World recycling facility. 


The sharing of the technology with everyone empowers people to innovate, design and create their own solutions to their problems through the shared mission of solving local problems for local people through disruptive open source technologies, such as 3D printing. 

Shane and Watamu community members with Ultimaker 3D printer

This has been done by equipping Watamu Marine Association community with 3D Printing facilities and 3D skills and working to give them the ability to produce their own filaments from recycled polymers. 

CREATE Education provided The Rapid Foundation with an Ultimaker Original 3D printer and on a recent visit to Kenya, Shane set up and built the 3D printer, alongside providing training such as calibration, operation, 3D modelling slicing and printing. 

Enabling reach to a remote group and empowering them through the wide applications and abilities of 3D printing to cross borders, cultures and communities. The facility will allow the printing of tourism products, functional prototypes or educational models. Opening up endless possibilities for the locals to learn, profit and grow together.

Supported by The Rapid Foundation initially, to help troubleshoot and train local experts and also to survey the area for potential areas of development and implementation of 3D printing, as well as introductory lessons in basic 3D modelling and design. The methods used will all be easy access, open-source technologies which have a gentle learning curve.

Now, The Rapid Foundation are looking to set up the filament making and are looking to purchase a filament maker, to implement and develop on-site filament making at the Eco-World –  the recycling facility of the organisation. 

From this, the team will be able to set up and train the Watamu Marine Association members on how to use the device and develop filaments and deliver more advanced training for 3D modelling and printing, including assistive technology printing such as the enable hand for locals that might need such devices.

Find out more about the project here

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