Nonprofit turns plastic waste into affordable prosthetics

ANACORTES, Wash. – A nonprofit organization near Seattle has found a way to bring prosthetic limbs to children whose families might not otherwise be able to afford expensive artificial limb or hands.

The Million Waves Project uses a 3D printer to build custom limbs for children and some adults here in America and across the world. The company is doing more than just changing people’s lives, they’re also on a mission to save planet earth.

“Neither one of us had no background in 3D printing,” Chris Moriarity told Steve Kiggins of Seattle's Q13 News.

Moriarity, and his wife Laura, live in Anacortes where their dining room is now an assembly plant. The machine working overtime is actually producing prosthetic hands for kids who might not otherwise be able to afford a more conventional device.

“One of these start to finish, it’s $45,” said Chris.

Chris said the Million Waves Project has already shipped 18 hands across the country and around the globe. The organization reclaims discarded plastic found in the ocean, on beaches and in Puget Sound, and recycles the material into its products.

“I’ve been reading a lot about what’s happening with ocean plastics and 3D printing,” said Chris.  “We didn’t have a background in either one and all of the sudden I was like, why isn’t someone putting these two things together?”

Chris says it takes only on average 30 bottles to make a new prosthetic limb or hand.

Dr. Jonathan Shafer, an orthopedic surgeon, is also part of the project. He, too, says a 3D printer at his home is working overtime converting discarded plastic into prosthetics.

“Is this a hand that will allow someone to do every day basic functions? Absolutely,” he said.

Melissa McPherren's daughter, Abby, was the latest recipient of Million Waves Project’s prosthetics.

“This is pretty amazing,” said McPherren. “There are so many things that are out there for children with limb differences, it's pretty exciting.”

Chris said other online users helped him with the design of his devices and now his company is poised to increase their production by tenfold once they order new equipment.

“As a mom, you just want your kids to be happy,” said Laura Moriarity. “So if this is going to help them be happy, you’re willing to do anything.”