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Returning Sprues


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Over the Memorial Day Weekend, I was at The Spare Time Shoppe in Marlborough, MA; and the proprietor & a customer were having an interesting conversation concerning the price of model kits.  This went on for a few minutes, bringing up the usual suspects of increased model cost (supply chain issues, COVID, price of oil, war in Ukraine, Walmart/Hobby Lobby, etc.); but one thing caught my attention.  The customer (who is an armor modeler) said that one model company was asking modelers to send back the sprues after they finished the kit so that they could be recycled into new kits.  While it's a good idea, I've never heard of a model company asking for the empty sprues back.  Anyone else ever heard of this?

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Well I've not heard of it either, but I mean hey if you can get your customers to send you free materials and have them foot the international shipping to get them back to you, I mean why not?  Probably have to make sure they're specifically your own sprues since not every formulation of styrene is identical.

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Can't believe that it would be practical. As said the return cost of shipping would be impractical for both the customer and the manufacturer. It would be more practical for the manufacturer to reduce the amount of sprue when a kit is manufactured and I'm not sure that the added labor cost would be worth the value of the plastic saved. Best solution is for the consumer to throw the plastic into their recycle bin,

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Funny you mentioned this here.  Similar question was posted in the latest copy of the FineScale Modeler Magazine.  Looks like Bandai is "that" company.  Considering the cost of postage in relation to the value of the plastic sprues, it doesn't seem very logical (even domestically in Japan).  Well unless the modeler (or a group of modelers) collect several pounds of spreue over time, and ship them in a single large package.

SprueRecycling.JPG.76cefc8333078d40cd2bc773a46cad31.JPG

Edited by peteski
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Bandai.  Interesting.  Time will tell if it turns out to be economically feasible or not.  It's still a good idea as many municipalities won't (can't) take model plastic in their recycle programs, so it just ends up in the landfill.

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1 hour ago, BlackSheep214 said:

Hmmm...an interesting idea but I usually save good length of sprues for stretching sprues for various reasons .... rigging wire for ship kits, attenna wires for aircrafts, paint stirrers, etc....

Well, if you keep them for use, then by all means hang onto them. No need to recycle things you are using. :) 

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This topic has come up numerous times over the decades, and it usually gets shot down in discussions for being too complicated.  If a manufacturer can make it work, more power to them.

Does regrinding styrene change the properties of the plastic?

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14 minutes ago, peteski said:

Well, if you keep them for use, then by all means hang onto them. No need to recycle things you are using. :)

The old mantra:

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

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Makes sense to me. I'm sure 50 years ago people said recycling aluminum cans, glass bottles and copper wire was a waste of time too.

If recyclers could concentrate plastic as a recyclable entity in and of itself, we could eliminate a giant ecological problem all at once.

I for one have many bags, packaging, straws and broken appliances I could donate to that one centralized bin.

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I looked into it locally, they don't want styrene in the recycling bin.  I do recycle wherever possible, I put that bin out to the curb more often than my trash bin (though admittedly it is the smaller of the two, but not by a lot).

With 3D growing as much as it has, sprues might eventually by cutoffs from the printer...

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One thing the model companies could do if they seriously wanted sprue returned, would be to offer free kits to either model clubs or hobby shops for returning a significant amount of plastic. Everyone in a club could pool their scrap and raffle off the free kit if and when they get one. Hobby shops could have a bin to collect sprue, much like grocery stores accept plastic bags. Since it has no “type” identification numbers, it would likely wind up in the trash anyway if put in your regular recycle bin?

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I remember seeing a picture of a box for sprue at a show once. I do not recall what mag it was in. If modelers have 200 built kits they should be able to come up with a medium box of scrap sprue.  The longer the program would run the better it would get. 

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I don't think that 3D printing will ever replace injection moulding. If you ever watched an injection mould in use and a 3D printer the difference in manufacturing time is seconds from an injection mould and quite a number of minutes or even hours depending on the complexity on a 3D printer. No comparison.

Recycling sprues. Unless you could put them in the domestic recycling bin, the many ideas are either impracticable, unfeasable of just too costly to pursue. The idea of model shops having a bin for recycling sprue. Has this been thought through? If I owned a model shop where shop and yard space would be at a premium it would just be another inconvenience, not to mention the cost of having the bin removed. Seriously, the cost of collection would outweigh by far the value of the scrap sprues, and really, would modellers actually stop to think about taking sprues back?I

Recycling sprue really is a nice thought, but is so impractical to do it is a dead duck!I

If you can use it for stretching or making something from it so much the better. Some figure modellers I know have dissolved it in CTC (Carbon Tetrachloride) to make bottles of a plastic gel fluid.

 

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On 6/28/2022 at 4:46 AM, Jim B said:

While it's a good idea, I've never heard of a model company asking for the empty sprues back.  Anyone else ever heard of this?


The first thing that come up on google. Keywords are ecopla kit.

 

https://bandai-hobby.net/site/ecoplaproject/en/

 

On 6/28/2022 at 7:36 AM, bobthehobbyguy said:

Best solution is for the consumer to throw the plastic into their recycle bin,


The kits have been happening since 2008. Most are dyed black due to the coloured plastic however white kits would now have this issue. 
 

I would assume in Japan there is a recycling bin in the Hobby shops that return then to Bandai. Like the recycling bins in shopping centres for plastic bags, printer cartridges, old phones etc. 
 

Also the recycled kits are brittle when compared to the original plastic so there is that issue.  

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Simple solution:  mold kits in polyethylene plastic so they may be recycled with water and soda bottles.  🙂

 

Municipal recycling centers in my area can't recycle styrene or ABS plastics

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I've been building kits -- for better or worse -- since 1953, and even as a third-grader I had pangs of regret that all those sprues couldn't be reused.  It seemed like almost as much polystyrene was expended on sprues as was utilized in the kit parts, sometimes.  Our clan (thre 'greatest generation' level, anyhow, were frugal farm-types, and saved and often reused all kinds of materials, and taught we kids to do it, too!  Grandma, depression traumatized, had a mantra: 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!'  So, every time I put a wad of styrene trash in File Thirteen, I wish it could be remelted and injected into another mold!

I seem to recall stripping the vacuum-aluminized 'chrome' off of some kit parts c. 1960, and discovering it was 'marbelized' in various bright colors, as if it were indeed that; scrap or sprue (maybe distorted components, or test-sots?) and I believe the company was JoHan.  Pyro, also or Renwal?  So, over almost seventy years, I've consigned quite a lot of sacred styrene to the local dump.  If it were compacted, or even melted down into 'ingots' and collected at model shops, would that work?  Maybe an electric sprue-grinder at the store, making lumpy powder from discarded kit stuff?  And a gift card for the most donated?  Wick

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18 minutes ago, Brian Austin said:

Simple solution:  mold kits in polyethylene plastic so they may be recycled with water and soda bottles.  🙂

 

Municipal recycling centers in my area can't recycle styrene or ABS plastics

Solvent glues accessible to the general public don't work on polyethylene. Glues that DO are a PITA to use.

Quoting somebody who knows his stuff:

"PE and PP are hard to glue because they have "low surface energy".
Very crudely, they have little interest in sticking to anything
else, including adhesives. One technique that works is to apply
a chemical "surface activator" then use cyanoacrylate adhesives
("superglues"). Until recently, surface activators were not
marketed for retail, although anyone could buy small quantities
from a Permatex distributor like a bearing or power transmission
industrial supply house, or from similar sources.

Recently, the Locktite brand has started retail marketing of a
product called "Plastix" that is a kit of surface activator and
compatible cyanoacrylate adhesive. The literature for Plastix
indicates it is suitable "even for" PE and PP."

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Posted (edited)
49 minutes ago, W Humble said:

...Maybe an electric sprue-grinder at the store, making lumpy powder from discarded kit stuff?  And a gift card for the most donated?  Wick

A good idea at first thought, as polystyrene is relatively easy to recycle, though not necessarily back to its original application. Because of the likelihood of contamination, and mixed colors and formulations, it's doubtful recycled styrene would end up as kits again.

Also, there has to be the incentive to do it, and that always involves money. An employee would have to run the show, manage finding a suitable recycler, shipping the stuff, etc.

And unfortunately, recycling plastics is more complex than many assume.

Quoting below from a solid source:

"High Impact PolyStyrene (HIPS) is a recyclable material

For a world that needs to reduce its plastic waste, using a 100% recyclable plastic packaging solution, such as HIPS, is not a problem, especially for organizations that want to reduce their carbon footprint. Because High Impact Polystyrene is a thermoplastic that can be easily formed using heat, it can be recycled in a wide variety of applications.

Not only does this show how flexible the material is, but it can be useful beyond its original purpose. However, High Impact PolyStyrene (HIPS) and other recyclable forms of polystyrene are often not acceptable in recycling plants. In the UK, for example, only 30% of the UK population has access to factories that allow the recycling of HIPS products such as glasses and disposable tableware.

Unfortunately, this is part of a global problem where only 14% of the world’s plastic packaging is recycled annually. Because most recycling plants cannot sort and reprocess up to 50 different types of plastics. This wide variety means that plastic recycling is a complex task, especially when compared to how other materials are recycled.

Edited by Ace-Garageguy
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What I would like to see is a Hot Glue Gun for styrene. Nip the the branches of a sprue and stick it in the gun. Then you can melt perfectly compatible styrene as an adhesive and/or body filler. It would sand at exactly the same rate as the molded part and not shrink like putty invariably does.

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1 minute ago, Bills72sj said:

What I would like to see is a Hot Glue Gun for styrene. Nip the the branches of a sprue and stick it in the gun. Then you can melt perfectly compatible styrene as an adhesive and/or body filler. It would sand at exactly the same rate as the molded part and not shrink like putty invariably does.

That's most likely a patentable idea. You should build a prototype, patent it, then see if you can sell it to a model company...or somebody.

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Small scale styrene injection molding, desktop-size, is possible as I write this. I posted links and vids some time ago.

Recycled sprue would be ideal in that application...make your own styrene parts.

The dies can be 3D printed, but the downside is it would require many multiples of any part made to be worth the time and effort involved. How many '37 Caddy hubcaps can you really use?

 

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