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Hanley Sustainability Institute

Graduate Student taking sustainability several projects at a time

By Hanley Sustainability Institute

Peter Fabe has a lot on his plate these days. 

Currently in the graduate program in the University of Dayton’s School of Engineering, the Cleveland native also makes time for an ever-expanding interest in sustainability. He has the Hanley Sustainability Institute’s summer research support to thank for that. 

“I was connected with the HSI’s program through my undergraduate honors research in recycled plastic 3D printing (completed in summer 2021),” Fabe said. “This allowed me the time and opportunity to explore waste management systems around plastic recycling and reclamation, which gave me a much better understanding of the economies of plastic waste. I intend to continue doing research and product development around plastic recycling systems.”

Between graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 2021 and working with HSI, he began doing research with UD’s ETHOS Center, which provides students with service-learning experiences. 

“The origin of the research started in 2018 with my honors thesis exploring the difference in mechanical properties of recycled versus virgin 3D printing materials,” he said. “After a 2019 summer ETHOS international project where I worked on a concrete 3D printer in Auroville, India, I came back with a passion to do more about plastic waste. 

“That coincided with my research in the summer 2021 and allowed me to dive deeper into plastic waste systems. The goal is to make 3D printing with plastic waste more accessible and easier.”

Additionally, Fabe is currently working with one department on campus to curb plastic waste.

“A good amount of waste plastic generated on campus is PLA plastic, which is one of the most common and easiest to use 3D printing materials,” Fabe said. “Facilities Management is helping me to collect the plastic waste so that I can do research on processes and systems that will make recycling plastic into usable feedstock more possible.”

If that wasn’t enough, Fabe is also working with UD’s Green Revolving Fund, which invests in campus sustainability projects. Fabe said he wants to have permanent systems on campus for cleaning, grinding and turning waste plastics into 3D-printing material, which would save the tipping cost of disposing of the material and the costs associated with purchasing new material.

HSI support of undergraduate research, through the gifts of John Alberici, has played a large role in what Fabe is doing today. 

“I feel that experiential-learning opportunities widen perspective and allow students to engage with the realness of the content that they are learning,” he said. “My experiences with ETHOS and HSI allowed me to understand the issue by looking at all of the systems involved in current unsustainable issues in a way that a classroom might not have made me appreciate that as fully as I do. 

“It has also allowed me to connect directly with community stakeholders and others who work in this area, which is so incredibly important to the continued success of any project.”

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