Nonprofit Envision Charlotte wants to solve the protective equipment shortage for essential employees with extra trash accumulated during North Carolina’s stay-at-home order. Starting today, Envision will collect plastic takeout containers to turn into filament for 3D printers, which will then be donated at no cost to firms producing face shields for medical workers.
“Since people have been staying at home there has been a significant increase in residential waste, including takeout containers from favorite restaurants. These hard plastic takeout containers are not currently being recycled in Mecklenburg County and have been destined for the landfill,” the organization said in a release. Envision Charlotte isn’t aware of any similar programs, a spokeswoman says.
Residents can donate their cleaned containers at different locations through the Send Me on My Way program. Local protective equipment producers can apply for filament starting July 1 through Envision Charlotte’s website.
Organizing the initiative has been a real community effort, Envision Charlotte says. A group of high school students from China and the U.S., in partnership with the North American Chinese Chamber of Commerce, raised $20,000 for Envision Charlotte to purchase the machinery to produce the filament. It has capacity to make enough filament for 576 shields per day. Girl Scouts Hornet’s Nest Troop 1577 is assisting with promoting the program.
Envision Charlotte launched the Send Me on My Way program in 2018 through a partnership with Sealed Air, Coca-Cola Consolidated and the Charlotte Area Transit System to educate residents on recycling. It was part of Envision’s larger Circular Charlotte plan, which looks to increase sustainability through programs that boost economic competitiveness and environmental stewardship. The group’s goal is for the city to have zero waste by 2050.
Envision is led by Amy Aussieker, a former manager at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Its board includes City Manager Marcus Jones; UNC Charlotte Dean Fatma Mili,; Michael Smith, CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners; and Ken Chrisman, senior vice president of global operations for Sealed Air.