Loving the Plastic Life, Part 2
In 2021, the Gowings Whale Trust purchased a Plastic Collective Shruder Recycling Centre for the MiiMi Aboriginal Corporation, in Bowraville NSW. Since then, Plastic Collective CEO Louise Hardman has been training the MiiMi Rangers to use the Shruder for plastic reclamation. An environmental innovator, Louise Hardman has established similar projects all over the world. However, as an scientist concerned about plastic in the waterways, this project is close to home and her heart. In the future Louise and the Bowraville crew hope to manufacture from the recycled plastics MiiMi creates, repurposing plastic refuse as a recycled material of value.
We spoke to MiiMi manager, Aunty Patricia Walker. She reports that the Rangers are trained and crushing it…bad pun, sorry.
The MiiMi crew have been cleaning up the waterways of the Nambucca River, helping the Nambucca oyster farmers get rid of barrels and other plastic items wrecked by the floods. After the plastic waste is cleared from the environment, the Rangers take it to their recycling centre in Bowraville to be sorted into plastic types. And there are so many!
A PhD in Plastic?
Understanding the diverse chemistry of plastic is a career in itself. Put simply, hard plastics like the blue oyster barrels, milk cartons, drink bottles and any other object that holds a rigid shape, are sorted into different resin types. Generally, polyethylene is used for packaging, while polypropylene is popular for automotive parts. To make a surfboard fin you might want to use polypropylene, or the stronger nylon.
After sorting, the plastics are fed into the Granulator. This produces plastic shred, or granules, which are sold to manufacturers like Port Plastics in Port Macquarie. From this extruded and injection molding can make many products: garden edging, bollards, planks for jetties, containers, trays, trolleys…the list goes on.
Business Leading By Example
Like MiiMi and the Plastic Collective, Gowings Whale Trust benefactor, FCS, knows that protecting our waterways is the responsibility of everyone. Especially the surfers and surf companies who need a healthy ocean for their businesses to prosper.
To embed sustainable practices into their business model and contribute to the recycling effort, FCS is experimenting with recycled plastic in fins. Pure plastic has a little too much flex for a fin but combining plastic with fibreglass finds a sweet spot. Watch this space for news from FCS as trials continue. And best wishes to the Plastic Collective and MiiMi Aboriginal Corporation as they move toward their goal of manufacturing from reclaimed plastic.
Confused about what to recycle?
Soft plastic, like cling wrap and bread bags, can be recycled via Coles and Woolworths REDecycle bins at their supermarkets – check out this WWF article for info.
We’d like to share a few tips for recycling common goods, courtesy of Steph McCan at the World Wildlife Fund:
- Small plastic items like bottle lids can be recycled, but individually may slip through recycling machines, so put them into a larger plastic bottle before adding them to your bin.
- Plastic wrap used to cover food, so long as it’s reasonably clean, is good to go with other soft plastics in a REDcycle bin. Don’t waste water washing plastic wrap, simply scrape it clean.
- Aluminium foil is a precious recyclable material. In small pieces, it can cause problems during processing, so wait until you’ve got a golf ball size of it before adding it to your recycling bin.
- Foil-like packaging (think chocolate wrappers, chip packets and those little silver bags water crackers come in) fall into the soft plastics category and should be reserved for the REDcycle bins.
- Polystyrene and cellophane are both a definite no-no for recycling. Cellophane (the stuff food hampers are often wrapped in) may look like soft plastic, but it cannot be recycled with your soft plastics collection.
Thanks to Steph McCann at WWF for the great info above. Thanks to FCS for helping to make the oceans a safer place for whales. You can help by picking up rubbish when beach walking, always recycling, and donating to the Gowings Whale Trust.
Read Part 1 of the Gowings Whale Trust Loving the Plastic Life story here.