Zero-Waste Orange Juicer Uses A 3D Printer to Make Disposable Cups from Orange Peels
Over eight million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year. It is estimated that by the year 2050, there will be about 12 billion tons of plastic in landfills.  Toxic plastic waste is critically damaging the environment and endangering the survival of wildlife in their natural habitats
As the movement to sustain the planet grows, more organizations are beginning to think up innovative ways of recycling natural resources and create biodegradable materials. The circular economy is a system aimed at eliminating all forms of waste and maximizing the use of resources.  The fundamental principle of the system is the production of biodegradable and recyclable products to effectively minimize waste accumulation.
Carlo Ratti Associati, an Italian innovative and tech design company recently came up with a giant orange juicer that can produce biodegradable cups by 3D printing.  In partnership with the global energy company Eni, CRA designed the experimental juicer, Feel the Peel, with a 3D printer installed at the base to convert leftover peels into disposable cups to promote the zero-waste movement.
How does the machine work?
Feel the Peel is a magnificent spiraling dome towering three meters high and can hold up to 1,500 oranges at a time. The mushroom-like machine has two sides: one for juicing and the other for cup modeling. When someone orders a cup of fresh orange juice, the machine slides several oranges down into its slicing unit where they are cut in half. The juice is pressed out of each half and into a collector, while the peels are thrown down the other side.
The peels are crushed, dried, milled, and mixed with polylactic acid (PLA). Under the right conditions, PLA is a biodegradable plastic derived from renewable sources such as sugarcane chaff and corn starch. When PLA is added, the orange peels become bioplastic materials and are heated into a powdered filament. The filament is then fed into the 3D printer which rapidly models a biodegradable cup to be filled with healthy, nourishing orange juice.
Feel the Peel is not yet available for commercial sale. The prototype’s first tour started at the 40th Meeting for Friendship among People in Rimini, Italy in late August. It was also displayed at the Singularity University Summit in Milan on October 8th and 9th. The next stop will be at Ecomondo Rimini in November, the leading event in Europe for the new models of the circular economy.
“Circularity can be an inspiration for tomorrow’s everyday life objects,” says Architect Carlo Ratti, founder of the Carlo Ratti Associati. “Working with Eni, we played around a machine that helps us to understand how oranges can be used well beyond their juice. In the next iterations of these projects, we might add new functions, such as printing fabric for clothing.”
The circular economy is the way forward
Every little step taken toward circular innovation is one step toward protecting the environment and reducing waste and greenhouse emissions. Consumers are increasingly motivated to be more environmentally conscious about the products they buy, prompting industries to produce eco-friendly, recyclable products. Bio-Tec Environmental, a leading company in biodegradable plastics technology, estimated that the bio-based plastics industry would likely grow at an annual rate of 20.21% from 2018. 
Earlier this year, Café Editha in Surigao Del Norte, Philippines, eradicated plastic straws in their establishment by replacing them with straws made from local coconut leaves.  Instead of filling the earth with plastic straw waste, it would be enriched by biodegradable lukay leaves.
In 2015, a California-based innovative company, Reduce. Reuse. Grow., came up with the “World’s First Plantable Coffee Cup” made with compostable paper filled with plantable seeds.  Instead of tossing out non-compostable plastic cups, people could just dip their coffee cups into water and bury them in the ground. Under the right conditions, they would grow into trees or shrubs, and replenish the earth with oxygen.
With leaf straws, plantable cups, and disposable cups made from orange peels, the world is certainly headed in the right direction if everyone starts thinking green.
- “A whopping 91% of plastic isn’t recycled,” National Geographic. December 2018.
- “What Is Circular Economy?,” Active Sustainability.
- “Innovative orange juicer 3D prints bioplastic cups out of leftover orange peel,” Inhabitat. September 2019.
- “Consumers are driving the rapid growth of the biodegradable* plastic market by demanding environmentally friendly products,” Bio-Tec Environmental.
- “Cafe in the Philippines Now Uses Straws Made Out Of Coconut Leaves To Cut Plastic Waste,” Good News Network. July 2019.
- “Boulder embraces a radical solution to disposable coffee cups,” Tree Hugger. November 2018.
- “Feel the Peel,” Carlo Ratti Associati. 2019.
- “Everything You Need To Know About Polylactic Acid (PLA),” Creative Mechanisms. October 2015.