Monday, 1 December 2014

Plastic Fantastic


How many gold stars would you give yourself for your recycling skills?
One for having a recycling bin, two for separating different types of waste?

If anyone should get gold stars for recycling, it really should be Andrew at EcoPolymers. He should also get a gold star for being a really nice patient man and taking the time to show me his plastic recycling factory last week.

I found EcoPolymers while shopping for a plastic recycling service on the Googles. While not a waste collection service, these guys actually turn old plastic in to shiny (and not shiny) new raw plastic material. Happily, EcoPolymers turned out to be just across the highway from my house, so I dutifully called and asked if I could come over and have a look. My workplace sells a lot of items made from polyester and polypropylene, so the possibility of seeing the end material being remade into raw material again had me all tingly with excitement.

After a few goes at arranging a suitable date, I cycled on over to the factory and signed in for my personal tour.

Andrew is a friendly, straight down the line guy who really knows his stuff. I was invited in to his office to have a bit of a chat about the theory of plastic recycling first. Here is my attempt to impart some of his wisdom to you dear reader:

Did you know...

  • It is easier and cheaper to recycle big plastic things like wheelie bins than thin plastic like glad wrap because of the surface area involved.
  • About 4000 wheelie bins are recycled every month in Brisbane. People - treat yo wheelie bins nice.
  • China buys heaps of our old plastic. Anything we can't recycle here, like gladwrap, goes over there.
  • There are only 2 plastic recycling plants in the whole of SE QLD. The other one mainly does pipes from the mine. So all your empty plastic sauce bottles either meet Andrew or go to China.
So now we all know a little bit more about plastic recycling, here are some interesting photos to prove I went:

Big plastic is more profitable to recycle - once it's clean. This is the pond lining from a CSG operation near Toowoomba

Pipe from the mines

Dirty plastic goes in the top, clean plastic comes out the bottom

Chopped up plastic that has been cleaned. The dirty brown stuff is all the paper labels and what not that is still stuck to the plastic containers. The paper and gunk has to be separated out from the plastic via a float tank and then dried before it can be melted down.

Wheelie bins about to meet their maker and then be reborn - I guess this is kind of like purgatory for them

Cool molten plastic is randomly strewn about the place. I think it adds an artistic edge to the yard personally.

The blue stuff is an anti-oxidant so the plastic doesn't get bubbles in it when it's melted

Old chemical bottles collected from farmers by EcoPolymers in a program called Drum Muster. 

Andrew's hand holding powdered plastic - one of the many finished products they can make.

 Oh, and another very cool thing happened since my last post - my Brisbane Sustainability Meetup group grew legs! There are about 11 members at the moment, and they all seem so awesome and informed about sustainability. Can't wait to meet them next week. I will of course be blogging my little heart out afterwards, so stay tuned.

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