From plastic to fantastic
It is hard to imagine that plastic bread bags can be transformed into furniture or outdoor signs but the evidence is everywhere you look, particularly here in Ballarat.
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Local company Replas is a leading business success story throughout our region. As a soft plastics recycler, it is boosting environmental sustainability and creating new and exciting commercial products.
“Plastics recycling has improved a lot over the years. In the past, we sent much of our plastics straight to China but now we are recycling more of it here at home,” Russell Muller, Managing Director of Replas, says.
“The process starts with REDcycle, which sends the soft plastics to us at Replas by truck in quarter-tonne blocks.
“We process the soft plastics at our Ballarat plant and create all sorts of Replas products. These include bollards, fire hydrant posts, outdoor furniture and signs.”
Russell says the company’s production techniques are very efficient and designed to save money and time.
“We have new technology now that enables us to turn bread bags into granular plastics. We can even include the finished product in footpaths.
“As we are re-using products and not dumping them in landfill, we are creating a circular economy where very little gets wasted,” Russell says.
“Waste is a valuable resource. We should encourage the public to recycle their soft plastics. It’s a positive thing we can do for the environment and it will be good for Ballarat business too.”
Replas’ formula is based on mixing different plastic polymers to create a variety of three-dimensional shapes.
The recycled plastic products are low in maintenance and long-lasting.
Aiming for zero waste
The success of Replas sits well with the City of Ballarat’s Resource Recovery and Waste Management Strategy 2018-22. As part of the strategy, there is a target to achieve zero recoverable waste to landfill by 2040.
The zero-waste philosophy proposes a massive change in the way materials are recycled, resulting in no waste.
The aim of zero-waste is more than recycling and reuse. It also focuses on restructuring production and distribution systems to reduce waste.
“If there is no demand for these products, the plastic waste may end up in landfill instead,” Russell says.
“When businesses and organisations purchase these products, they enable recycled plastic to be brought back as useful products that will improve the environment. This is what a circular economy is all about.”
City of Ballarat Environmental Education Administration Officer Emma Swift says it is crucial we are all mindful of recycling opportunities.
“There will be significant benefits if we can divert more soft plastics such as chip packaging from the household garbage bin and into REDcycle and Replas for recycling,” Emma says.
Each year, an average of 550 tonnes of soft plastics such as plastic bags and chip packets is sent to landfill through the red-lid garbage bin. It would be great to see this number reduce from landfill and into the REDcycle program where these items are being recycled.
Let’s make a difference
Emma encourages residents to consider their purchasing habits as well as their disposal habits.
“Purchasing products that can be recycled and are also made out of recycled material is essential as we move from a wasteful society to a circular economy,” she says.
“It also demonstrates that clean streams of recyclables can improve the opportunities for reprocessing.”
Russell is optimistic about the future of recycling in Ballarat and beyond.
“Replas currently produces 60 tonne of product per week and with the extra production capability recently installed at the Ballarat plant, we are looking for products and markets to double that tonnage.”
What can I REDcycle?
If it’s soft plastic and can be scrunched into a ball, it can be placed in a REDcycle drop-off bin.
You can REDcycle bread bags, biscuit packets (wrapper only, not the biscuit trays), paper goods packaging, pasta and rice bags, frozen food and veggie bags, confectionery bags, silver-lined chip packets, plastic bags, old green bags and cereal box liners.
The REDcycle program is available at major supermarkets.
For your nearest drop-off point visit redcycle.net.au.