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I am using PLA for 3D printing, and I know it does not degrade well in the wild. I would like to know if there is a chemical process I could use to treat it at home.

Specifically, I am looking for a cleaner alternative than throwing my 3d printing scraps in the garbage, so I wouldn't be generating toxic components when doing this, ideally. I would like the plastic to degrade (in a few years maybe?) when I put it underground while limiting the amount of toxic matter propagating in the soil.

I have read that hydrolyzing PLA could help to achieve this. I also found threads on dissolving it (How to dissolve PLA (polylactic acid)?) But as I am looking for an eco-friendly process, I think I need to stay away from this as the fumes may be very toxic and polluting

Posts like this one Can I really throw failed PLA prints on compost? mention a few requirements for PLA to degrade but doesn't really talk about a way to achieve these conditions.

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    $\begingroup$ A good question, and I was going to leave a semi-informative comment, however, I have added the content of the comment as a new answer to the question that you linked to instead. The article doesn't offer any process for accelerated degrading, unfortunately. $\endgroup$
    – Greenonline
    Jul 17 '21 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ Almost anything you can do is going to have more net environmental harm than benefit. You probably should start by just crushing/shredding the material and trying mixing it with an established organic composting system to see what happens. For this to be environmentally friendly you should be using the purest PLA you can get, unpigmented, and not any sort of "PLA+" with ABS or other stuff mixed in. $\endgroup$ Jul 17 '21 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ Great question, have you checked with your local council to see where your green waste goes , weather they use an industrial composter, and if it’s ok to put it in your green waste bin otherwise? Sometimes they have special facilities where you can drop off bio plastics like PLA. Kudos for saving the planet :) $\endgroup$
    – HotGlue
    Jul 18 '21 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ @HotGlue I haven't called them, but I tried bringing PLA scraps to the local ecocenter and they wouldnt let me explain what type of plastic it was, so I assume they threw it away.. :( $\endgroup$
    – JCSB
    Jul 20 '21 at 13:19
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You can make it biodegradable but it is very hard you need oxygen a temperature of 140+ degrees and a 2/3 cocktail of organic substrate these are usually absent outside of a industrial composting facility.

I had the same question when I got my printer - it's better to just buy recycled filament or recycle your own but PLA is a byproduct of milk production so its pretty naturally sourced anyway.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome. Don't forget to take the tour... :-) $\endgroup$
    – Greenonline
    Oct 27 '21 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ Naturally sourced means nothing. PLA still accumulates plastic waste. I agree, you're probably better off using recycled filament but I have one of those printers that use proprietary spools with chips... Im stuck with this until I get a new one $\endgroup$
    – JCSB
    Oct 27 '21 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ @JCSB: You can just replace the firmware (and possibly also the board) to fix that, without replacing the whole printer. Price will be something like $0-35 plus time spent installing it. $\endgroup$ Oct 27 '21 at 15:18

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