This Anacortes Nonprofit Makes Custom Prosthetics From Ocean Plastic

An Anacortes couple designs prosthetics from ocean plastic using a 3-D printer
COOL DIGITS: Million Waves Project recipient Abbey shows off her new hand, specifically made for her in custom colors

This article appears in print in the November 2018 issue. Click here to subscribe.

Chris Moriarity and his Wife Laura enjoyed walking along the beach near their Anacortes home, but were troubled by the amount of plastic that washed ashore. Inspired by YouTube videos about 3-D-printed prosthetic limbs and what he already knew about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Moriarity, who is pursuing an iMBA from the University of Illinois, had an idea: to use a 3-D printer to produce upper limb prosthetics from ocean plastic.

On Earth Day this year, in partnership with Washington CoastSavers, a nonprofit coastal cleanup organization, the couple launched the Million Waves Project, their home-based nonprofit that creates custom limb prosthetics from reclaimed ocean plastic using a 3-D printer. “It takes about 30 plastic water bottles to create one hand,” says Moriarity of the process, which gets its recipients online through a “limb request.”

Those recipients never pay a dime; the limbs are funded through donations. Many requests come from developing countries, but Moriarity notes that prosthetics can be prohibitively expensive even for those seeking them in the U.S., as was the case for 9-year-old Abbey, a gymnast from Seattle, who received a new hand in vibrant kid-friendly colors. So far, 18 limbs have been created, and five more are underway. The project, Moriarity says, has been “humbling. [It] brings together two unacceptable global issues and provides a sustainable and smart solution.”

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