With this being National Recycling Week in Australia, the common question that is being asked right now is, “Should we still recycle?”
After all the negative media lately on what some shady recyclers have done (i.e. sending contaminated rubbish overseas and/or putting recyclables into landfill as the War on Waste program revealed), it’s not surprising if the general public think it’s a waste of time.
Personally, between my podcast and business, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with quite a few experts in this space and to see recyclers in action. And I can tell you that there are plenty of great companies out there that are doing the right thing. Furthermore, they are making great products from these materials too.
In fact, when interviewing Mark Yates of Replas, I saw the mounds and mounds of rubbish that they were turning into outdoor furniture and industrial products even with high levels of contamination in them at times.
But Australia has Plenty of Land
One common argument to the recycling campaign is that Australia has plenty of land to bury our rubbish. While it may be true that we have plenty of land, how practical and costly would it be to transport thousands of tonnes of waste to such locations every day from metro areas? And think about the additional carbon emissions that would add.
Let’s Burn it Instead
Some say that we should just burn these recyclables instead, but to many in this industry, it’s just like burning money. There were a lot of resources expended to make plastic, and it is still has usable purposes beyond its one-time use.
Furthermore, it practically encourages people to continue to waste these non-renewable resources to keep the incinerators sustainable. Remember, plastic is made from petroleum and cannot be replenished.
But is Burning it for Energy a Better Option?
There are better technologies coming out in this space all the time. However, at the moment, most experts agree that burning rubbish is not a cost efficient source of energy yet. Furthermore, there are still carbon emissions, health concerns and a huge requirement for water with most of these options.
Is there even enough demand for these recyclable materials?
Large recycler, SKM collapsed earlier this year and others are apparently struggling in various parts of the country as the demand for recyclables has fallen. This can mostly be attributed to exports being limited by other countries, but the self imposed export ban by Australia will also add further pressure if that ever gets implemented.
So, should we still recycle?
Absolutely! As long as we continue to make and use plastic, recycling is the most environmentally sustainable and economical way to generate value from this resource.
But it’s important for consumers to know that recycling doesn’t end when you put something into the yellow bin. It’s only recycled when it’s turned into something else, and companies can’t do that unless more people are actively buying Australian made, recycled material products.
Today’s guest is Luise Grossman of Five Oceans. She’s a surfer, marketer and the co-founder of a sustainable surf product company.
In 2013, Luise and her life partner, Felix Wunner decided to start a movement of sorts by trying to make the surf-product industry more sustainable. In fact, she explained to me the contradiction between the mindset of a surfer and the lack of sustainability in most of the products they use for their own sport.
Five Oceans first product was called Ecofin, a surfboard fin made recycled plastic collected in Bali. Specifically, a set of Ecofins is actually made from 100 recycled bottle caps.
In this episode, we’ll talk about how they
came up with their idea, how they funded the manufacturing through crowdfunding,
and ultimately the impact they have already made and want to make moving
I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Luise Grossman of Five Oceans.
Companies, Organisations and Products
Mentioned in this Podcast:
Check out the full transcript on Tammy’s blog page.
Hosted by Tammy Ven Dange Produced by Jonny Puskas Theme Music by Joseph McDade All Rights Reserved 2019
This transcript has been edited
T: Host Tammy Ven Dange L: Guest Luise Grossman, Co-founder of 5 Oceans
T: Luise welcome to the show.
L: Thank you for having me.
T: I was looking for a manufacturer for my
own products, and I found your case study about what you did to create your
first product, Ecofin. And that’s essentially how I found my own manufacturer.
The owner of that company
suggested I give you guys a call for my podcast. And that’s how we ended up on the
T: So Luise, thank you for coming on today.
I’d love to know more about yourself and your co-founder Felix. Would you mind
talking about that, and also how you ended up in Australia from Germany?
L: So Felix my co-founder – he’s actually my partner in life and in crime
– and during university and after university, we had been living in Australia
already before the Ecofin project.
L: At the time, it was 2013 when the idea sparked of the Ecofin. It was
pretty much like one of the first projects in the space, and we worked on a fin
concept which was a different project. And then, I came up with the idea and said, “Hey
Felix, why don’t we make something out of ocean waste? And why don’t we try
making fins out of ocean waste?”
L: And that was essentially at the time (that)
there was nothing around. There were no products that were actually aiming at
raising awareness at the same time as providing a useful product.
L: We got the opportunity to move to Australia. He was doing a PhD at
the time, and I said, “OK – that’s it. That’s the call of the universe. I’ve
got to do the Ecofin project.”
L: We always have been very cautious, “Let’s see how we go. We can
always drop the project and start something else or just get a normal job.”
things kept going – first from desk research. My first trip to Bali was such an
eye opener as well. And somehow things always worked out, and we kept going.
L: So now the project is still alive, and we have by this time moved back to Germany. And it was a really exciting journey, and (it’s) still alive. (There are) new projects in the pipeline. So that’s really exciting. And we have a new partner on board, and we’ll talk about this later.
RECYCLED PLASTICS FROM BALI?
T: Yeah. Well, I feel
like there’s a bunch of questions within what you’ve just said that need to be unpacked
for our listeners. Let’s go back to Ecofin. Let’s just go back to that. It’s a
surfboard fin made out of recycled plastic from Bali. Right? The actual plastic
is from Bali? Is that correct?
L: Yes. We’re using recycled plastic from Bali and islands
eastbound off Java – just for the geographic setting. So, we’re working
with the recycling partner in Java because there’s no industrial recycling (facility)
in Bali and east bound. That’s what we associate with the material.
T: Are you collecting the rubbish? Or are the recycling partners doing
L: We are working with partners in Bali. So, all of the waste from Bali
goes into that recycling stream, other islands as well, because every island
has the same problem. So it is hard to say it’s only this material, but we can
say all the Bali waste and beach waste that is collected in Bali goes into that
recycling stream, and there’s no reason not to accept it because it doesn’t
qualify for certain reasons.
L: So yes, this was basically connecting the dots between our partners
in Bali, and they are actually providing rubbish to the recycling facility in
T: OK. So let’s go back
to the fact that you are from Germany, and you’re moving to Australia. Why Bali
rubbish? How did Bali get into the middle of the story?
L: Yeah that’s where the surfing comes into play. We’ve been surfing
since 10 or 15 years I guess now. And my first time I surfed in Bali was about
2006. So very different times.
L: All the travelling, all the rubbish on
the beach you could see – the more I started researching about the problem and
seeing the problem, I was more and more concerned, and I got really passionate
about the topic.
L: And then the opportunity came up to move
to Australia, which is a surfing country because I think there is quite a
challenge to be in the surfing space when you’re based in Germany. I mean there
so many surfers in Germany, and Munich has quite an active surfing scene
because we have the
river, right. Of course, you’re not on the ocean. You’re not in that
lifestyle. And that’s what we wanted to do.
L: I was living in France before. So, I came
from surfing two or three times every day. So, as I said before that it felt
like a calling, that everything came together, and we did move to Australia.
L: We have lived before in Australia. So it
was an easy landing. We just called our friends, and some didn’t notice that we
were gone for three years. So, it felt like reactivating our life overseas, and
it was just a great start and things kept rolling. And the opportunity then to open
our little office in Byron Bay, which
is of course, the mecca of everything eco and surf. So that definitely helped a
lot. Now we are back in Germany which is great too.
T: I still want to go
back to the Bali situation. I know this probably feels like a long time ago for
you, but if you started surfing I think you said 2006? Was that the first time you started surfing in
I started surfing before, but I was surfing in Bali for the first time in 2006.
know I’ve surfed there a couple times. In fact, I was there in September last
year, and I know that just in the two times that I’ve been (there) with two
years apart, that I saw a lot more rubbish in the ocean. Did you see that
changing over time as well?
L: I wouldn’t say so, but those observations are – I don’t want to be
too scientific about it but it’s only a moment in pictures that you can take. I
find it much more interesting to say, “OK, well how do things change from spot
to spot?” And you can see in Bali, just
because there’s so much tourism, it’s starting to have working waste management
L: Whereas you go to Lampung, you go to Sumbawa to Sumba or Sumatra – there’s not much
going on in that. I’m so deep into that
topic, and I’m passionate about it. I go
to see all the landfills and check out the recycling when they say, “Yes, we
have recycling.” And then you go there, and then (see) those piles of plastic
bottles flowing over, and I ask the locals, “How does it work here?”
L: So, they have so many differences between the islands. Because how do you strategically and also physically transport all the waste from A to B. They have boats but it’s a very informal market. I see that this is such an exciting and difficult space to have to slow the problem. And I wouldn’t get out there and say, “Oh, it’s much worse than the last five years.”
HOW DID THEY GET STARTED?
T: What was your background that inspired you to start manufacturing
L: We’re actually well-equipped, I feel, for the project. Felix is a
mechanical engineer specialising in product development. And he was working on
a biomimicry fin
concept. So, he was into fluid dynamics and all the composite material. Then,
he can do all the CAD drawings etc. So there is definitely knowledge which I
would say it wouldn’t have been possible without that.
L: And I, on the other hand, am a business and technology graduate. That means I studied business and engineering. So, I also had an engineering background but more to the business side, and also my majors from university were marketing and innovation management. That helped. You can understand things.
L: Previously I worked for DC Shoes and
Quicksilver in France. So, I got into the surfing industry a little bit. I
understood a lot about how the market works, and that was part of the reasons
that pushed us to start the project.
was before this sustainability hype happened, and people weren’t quite aware of
what this all means. I was really frustrated about how things worked. I felt
like (we had) different values (than what was) in the products. You can
actually change things by becoming an active part of that. And I thought, “Well,
I don’t have to wait until someone else comes up with the idea.” There was
nothing around so, “That’s OK. Why don’t we do it ourselves?”
T: Well it sounds like both you and Felix as a team had some great skills, and as you said, you had this background already in surfing. And you were in the surf industry so you understood the market. What was the hardest part of getting your product to market?
L: Yes, our funding was definitely a problem. But we did the crowdfunding
campaign so that helped.
T: Why did you choose a
crowdfunding campaign over getting investors involved?
L: We thought it’s the ideal product for a crowdfunding campaign. We
had a story to tell. I mean, we created this amazing documentary about the
whole project telling the story. We felt like people were really open to this
topic. It was really like just on the brink of becoming a bigger topic of ocean
pollution and plastic pollution. So, it felt like it was the right
L: It was challenging because in 2015 when
we ran the crowdfunding campaign, I felt like crowdfunding was not yet globally
so well accepted. So, we had to do lots of education around it. At some stage
of the campaign, we made this video explaining how crowdfunding works. It was
L: Just because it was the biggest platform
at the time. I think it was a good way, and we learned so much about it, but it
was so exhausting to run the Kickstarter campaign.
L: I’m still happy that we went this way. I
mean, in retrospect, you always have a different perspective. But I would say
it was the right way to do it because we’ve been revolutionary in two ways: how
we initiated the project through crowdfunding, and also the type of product. So,
I think that aligned well, and people understood the story, and this kind of
work created lots of media buzz around it.
L: Of course, through our network in
Germany, it was easier in Europe. We toured all of Australia and Europe with
our documentary organising screenings everywhere. We gave it our all, and I
think after those two months I was so exhausted. But then things only started.
So, it was quite a journey.
T: Well it sounds like though you would have needed almost a
crowdfunding campaign just to fund the crowdfunding marketing.
L: At the time, that’s also interesting. I mean that was all self-funded. We kind of
just saved up for that, and we used all our savings and all the people that
supported us. Like I edited the campaign. There was a lot of self-made. So, a
friend who was shooting the video for us, she’s like, “It’s okay if you pay me
much less than my usual day rate would be, and also pay me once you have the
money. If you can’t get the money then we’ll make a super, super discount etc.”
L: So there was lots of help and people investing their own time and
resources. And that’s why it kind of worked without previous prefunding of the
L: But it’s very interesting to see because
I’m involved in the new project as well, and we were considering crowdfunding
today. Then something that I found was really, really interesting – the
difference between crowdfunding in 2015 and 2019. Today you need an
advertising budget of about 20 percent of the sum that you want to raise to
make it work, and you need that upfront.
L: Everything is so professional about it (now). I think all the
successful campaigns nowadays, they are all run or made by agencies and (are) super
professional. So, the way we used it – it was us talking in the video, no
makeup specialist and no special effects and this and that. It’s not common
anymore. You look at the polished and super glossy videos today you’re like, “OK
well, it’s a different game.”
L: I think we did a good job, but for
today’s crowdfunding market, it’s definitely not the standard anymore which is
a pity, I find. Because the original
idea of crowdfunding is – hey, you come up with a good idea, scrap your funds
together to create a half good video, and then you hope people will love it.
And yet today, it’s like “Okay, how do I get the budget right to make this
massive machine work?”
T: Well, you’re right it used to be a really a grass(roots) funded
campaign. And that’s why the videos were fairly amateur-like, right? You guys
were probably way ahead of the curve when you created the documentary, and you’re
probably a part of the blame, as well, as to why everybody has to lift their
game to achieve the same targets and have to engage professionals now to create
these commercials and such. So you could thank yourself for your successful
campaign making it harder for everyone else, right?
L: Maybe a little bit.
T: I do. I’ve seen that video.
I really do think you’ve raised the bar. So, how much money did you actually raise?
T: And what did that money cover?
L: Manufacturing, the molding, the material
that we sourced from Indonesia, the shipping etc. And also we did a classic
Kickstarter rookie mistake that we offered so many different things: drink
bottles and Frisbees and T-shirts and all kinds of things because we thought we
needed to offer something for non-surfers as well – just to get those people
L: And then of course you do your math, and then of course things
change, firstly just of time passing. So, things end up being much more expensive
L: This was really difficult to run all of these different little
projects from the drinking bottles to this and that, and then we had lots of
issues with the currency as well because everything was displayed in Australian
dollars. People looked at the prices, and (would) say that’s quite pricey. But
everyone here in Germany or Europe didn’t instantly see that this (price) was
in Australian dollars, and for them it felt expensive. But we were actually supposed to put the
prices much more up because the margin then (on) some of our products that we
offered was not great. And it barely covered what it was costing us.
L: So, there was lots of complicated
situations. I was like, “Oh my God! We didn’t make anything out of this!” And
then all the logistics, and how do we get all this stuff over to Europe, and
then it was such that such a difficult task.
L: Felix was doing his PhD at the time. So,
I was basically doing all the operations in the background myself. And I was so
busy, and I am quite an organised person, but you can imagine having five types
of projects coming at the same time and then packaging design and this and that.
L: The crowdfunding money helped to kick
things off, but all the rest was self-funded and it was never enough to pay for
what it needed to get off the ground. But it was a good starting point and that
that helped a lot.
L: And also, we created the community around it and the buzz around it. So we didn’t have to start from zero with building an audience and having people liking our brand or creating that brand identity out of the ether.
HOW TO SELL THE PRODUCT POST CROWDFUNDING?
T: Well let’s talk about that further because you hear a lot about successful
crowdfunding campaigns where they get a great start, they’re able to start the
project, but then the sales die off after that, they don’t maintain the
momentum. How did you continue to sell product after you’ve gone through that
buzz? You finally have more products to offer because you’ve created the mould
for your fin, (but) how did you keep things going?
L: I think if we had the resources, I think we would have done much
more in this phase. I think we just kept going by getting the word out on social
media that was all that was possible in terms of resources and money. And I
think we were just lucky that it was not yet in this super professional space,
and we had a story to tell and it was engaging for the people that they kind of
stayed onboard and were following what we were doing and with all the education
projects that we’re doing. So. there was always a lot of noise just happening
L: And then after we had our product ready
for the market, I went on sales trips. I went to visit every surf shop in
Australia – not quite every surf shop – but a few shops in Australia. I went to
Indonesia, and then I don’t know, (but) people knew about the products. The online sales kept coming in, but I mean we
have to level this out. It’s not (a) huge (amount that we) would (have) made.
Yeah, we sold off our product, but now we are almost out of stock for the first
L: So we’re going into production towards October hopefully for the next production run. So, it’s not a massive machinery where we pump so much stock. It’s a small project.
T: If you had the Kickstarter campaign in 2015. It’s 2019 now. And now
you’re just finally getting to the end of your stock from that. This must be a
project of love then. It’s more of a side hustle? What do you guys normally do
for a living now?
L: I’m involved in a new startup. We’re doing a training device for golf
and other sports. So, I stayed in the sports area and also same thing again
developing products from scratch. And Felix is actually in a consulting job
T: OK so a little bit of a “normal” paycheck to help fund your other projects.
It’s great though that this project is still going on especially because you guys
are now in Germany. You’ve tried to tell me before about Max, and I think is
the great time to chat about him further. You’ve gone back to Germany, Felix
has a job, you’re working full time at the moment. Tell us about how Five Oceans
is continuing without you being present here in Australia.
L: It was a very difficult time with the transition back to Germany. We weren’t sure what to do with it. As I mentioned in the beginning, we always said we keep it in the flow, and let’s see how far we go. And then of course we went that far – that we’ve been basically a global brand with say – it’s all over the world. It’s not huge, but everyone knew that we were out there.
HOW TO RUN THE AUSTRALIAN COMPANY FROM GERMANY
L: And then it was the time that we started to transition back to Germany and spend some time in Indonesia, and I was not finding a solution in my head. I was like sitting there, “I don’t know what to do.” I felt like I needed something else now after four years of really intense time with Five Oceans, but I felt like it didn’t want to die like a little flower or a tree that you actually didn’t water it, but it kept on growing.
L: Things were sitting there, and it was like, “Okay, well then if I cannot find a solution at the moment, maybe I need to let it sit and hover” – which I think was risky, just because of how social media works nowadays. When you keep things quiet, people tend to look away to find new things they can engage with.
L: But things kept on coming in. I had new shops in the US and left and right, and we have a depot and a little logistics infrastructure here in Germany as well. So, I could handle lots of things from Germany, and I did that on the sidelines of my new project. I was like, “Well, okay if it’s that for the moment, then it’s that. I can’t change anything about it.”
A NEW PARTNER
L: And then suddenly Max got it in touch
with us. He’s German too. Funny, but yeah we’re not exclusively (a) German project
but it seemed to happen that way. I get lots of requests from people who want
to be involved, who want to do an internship. Literally, (we receive) a few emails per week in
that space, but Max’s email was a bit different. I could instantly see (that)
he’s different, and he has a different spark, and also he was a bit more
L: And then we started
talking, and I was like, “Okay, well interesting. Let’s have a call.” Then he
told me what he’s doing, and that he actually found us because he had the same
idea. And (he’s) like, “Well, instead of reinventing the wheel, I might just
get in touch and see what those guys up to.”
L: And then I was like, “Oh, okay. Well,
what do you have in mind? What do you want to do?”
L: And he (said), “Well, I could imagine getting
involved in some way.”
L: And we started talking
more, and then it was last year before Christmas – he came to Munich, and we
met in person and that conversation was flowing instantly, and it was like it’s
super good vibes. And then by the end of the first conversation, we had a
person who already said, “Yes, I want to move to Byron Bay, and I got to do this
and this and that.”
L: We’re like, “Okay, well you’re our man.”
T: Wow! Well, that’s amazing too because obviously if the company
doesn’t sound like it’s bringing in a lot of revenue, with Max coming on board,
there probably wasn’t enough for even a full-time salary perhaps? Is that true?
the moment, not (enough for a full-time salary). But he also came in with lots
of new ideas to also make things bigger and expand the product range etc. So, I
think this is the plan. I mean, in business you never know if the plan works out.
L: It’s the plan that it grows from this always being a side hustle to a fully working company that brings in enough money to fund at least one or two people working for the company and having freelancers supporting from the sidelines. And yeah. That’s the mission and I think we’re in a good way. And let’s see what happens in the next year. I’m really excited.
T: As you’re moving forward, are you still
really focused on the recycle plastic story? As an example, I know that you’ve
created a special composite to make these surfboard fins, and I just wondered
if people are still buying the product because of the recycled factor or if they’re
just buy it because it’s a great fin.
L: No, I think it’s the
story that impresses people and also gets their attention. And then that it’s a
good product. One of our major reasons or major quality things is that we’ve
always been very transparent about where things come from, what we’re doing, that
there’s certain content of recycled material in it.
L: What we decided for our brand is (what) Five
Oceans stands for is a transparent, approachable, brand that makes products
that consumers can understand. They can research about it, and when they’re
convinced that they want to support this cause, and I’m convinced that this is
a good product, I think that’s where we get our customers from.
T: OK let’s talk about the future, Luise, because I know you guys are
about to relaunch a website, and you might have some other projects or products
in the works. Do you want to tell us about that?
L: What I can tell is,
yes, the web site is in relaunch. Max is doing a great job refreshing the brand
and having a bit of a new appearance which I think is a great way to relaunch
things. We’re going into a new production round which will be towards the end
of the year. So, this will be an Ecofin for future systems because this is the
most requests that we have most of the time. Apart from doing other colors etc,
that was basically (what) everyone was (asking about), “When do you bring a
future fins?” And we’re doing this now.
T: So, just to be clear for some of our listeners that aren’t familiar
with surfing, can you explain what a future fin is?
L: It’s just the different system – how the
fin is connected to the board. There two different systems out in the market, well
three, and we went for FCX (connection system) which has double plugs that you
screw the fins on, and the other system has just one long plug. For non-surfers
to understand it, it’s much more stable as well.
L: We’re going for this now, but we also
are working on other products from recycled material. And we’re also working on some apparel
and products that are in the same base in surfing, and that they have the same
values and are not unnecessary.
L: Unnecessary because
that’s something that is also really important for us. When you’re (intentionally)
not producing things that you wouldn’t really need.
“I think part of the solution to our problems in the world is also being more conscious about what you consume and how much you really need. And sometimes just don’t produce any waste at all is the best option and to avoid unnecessary things.”
WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DO THEY WANT TO MAKE?
T: What kind of impact would you like to make with the company ultimately.
L: Of course, using recycled material on the sourcing side of things. I
would love to connect the dots even more and connect with more areas where we
source our material. At the moment, we’re trialing things in Fiji which is a
super exciting project. The world will hear about this much more in the future.
L: So there we are going into a long term partnership with the Fiji Surf Team and working on
different options how to transform the waste partly already locally on site and
then partly in Australia. That’s my definite passion area for the whole project
is the sourcing, the waste management and the infrastructure.
L: So that’s my goal to get much deeper
into that and to bring the waste closer to the product even in terms of
storytelling but also in terms of distances travelled. Let’s say that because,
I mean we’re working on a sustainable product. So, we have to keep a close eye
on our carbon footprint as well. And so, this is one field that has always been
super important for us, and this requires funds as well (so) that you can work
on that and trial things, also in terms of travelling and putting more effort
L: On the other hand, the education part
was also always a big part of Five Oceans. We ran lots of projects in schools in
Australia but also Indonesia, and this actually inspired me to move ahead and
actually work as a university lecturer as well part time in Germany because I loved
it so much to see those young people be inspired by the project.
L: Two of my favorite projects were the
school projects with the secondary school in Australia where we produced fin
keys, and we took the kids on a mini version of our supply chain. So, we did a
beach cleanup in the south of Brisbane, and they learned about the waves.
L: It was so amazing by the end of the
whole term. I went in every week or every second week, I went into class and we
did some other part of the project and by the end of the term, I would ask them
(the kids) about their plans for the future, and what they would want to be professionally.
It didn’t matter whether they were more into the technical side or marketing,
but everyone said, “I want to do this and this, but it needs to be sustainable
or it needs to be in the environmentally friendly.” I felt like this topic just popped up in their
minds like, “Oh my God. That’s the future.”
L: I feel like the younger generation is so
ambitious about that. I , you can see that all with the Friday Future Movement now and
climate change, and how the young generation is actually telling the old
incumbents in our society, “You have to change your thinking. You have to
change your attitude. It’s time to do something.” That was one of the most
amazing parts of our work.
T: I think the video is on YouTube isn’t it
where you’re teaching the kids how to make keys?
L: One thing to add to the impact question is also what we always thought is the most important part of our work is raising awareness. I mean, I wouldn’t claim the whole stretching of hands of millions of people towards Five Oceans’ activity, but…
“In this space, we were definitely the first ones to do a project like this, and now all the brands have or they attempt to have sustainable products.
L: They attempt to revolutionise or change the
way they produce things, and I think we were definitely part of this momentum
that was needed to get something going in this really, really slow industry.
L: It’s interesting. You would see the mindset of a surfer, and then you have this really slow and innovation-adverse culture in the industry. I think it was great to be in that space during those times and people were like, “Oh my God, you’re so right. We need to change what we use in the surfing space.” Because it’s all resin and fiberglass and EPS foam and PU foam, and it’s really not sustainable.
L: And then great projects started to raise from our friends at No Tox for example. They’re doing great surfboards in the sustainable way. And we connected with so many shapers that are now using recycled blanks and using flax fibers. It’s a natural fiber instead of glass fiber.
L: And so I think the awareness on both the producers’ brand side and also on the consumer side is one of the biggest impacts that we can do and where we see lots of potential actually to change things. Because…
“We cannot change the world at once, but I think (by) one step at a time. You won’t buy Ecofin, and then throw your rubbish somewhere without thinking about it. I think once you stepped into that field you become a much more conscious consumer in any aspect.”
T: Yeah good point. I asked you
about your future impact, but it sounds like you’ve already done an amazing job
both in the education space, as well as, changing the industry in some degree –
to look at the way that they make their own products. And it sounds like you
also have some great things coming up that will continue to test the
sustainability factor of surfing products – or something to do I suppose with water?
not quite sure what you’re doing yet, but we can’t wait to hear about the
T: How else can people find out more about you and your business?
L: Instagram of course. I think we are on all channels. We are called, “Join Five Oceans.” We’ve got
channel. I think the most regularly updated channel at the moment is
Instagram, but also we’ve got a Facebook page which I think
there will be lots of new things coming through of social media channels in the
L: We have a great support from the
sidelines as well for the social media. So, I’m not 100% involved anymore, but
they’re doing a great job preparing everything. Also, the Fiji project – lots
of interesting news coming out in the next month.
T: I’ll put some of your links onto our show notes so that people can
find you, and when you’re ready to launch, let us know and we’ll add that to
the show notes as well.
T: Thank you, Luise, for everything you
guys are doing over at Five Oceans. Just by making products out of recycled plastic,
there’s a place for those materials to go in the first place. But obviously the
educational component is huge, and we need more people like you and Felix and
Max helping this process. So, thank you so much for your time today, and thank
you for the work that you guys are doing.
Today I spoke with a patent attorney to protect my first product before I start the crowdfunding campaign. Apparently there are dodgy people that troll these sites to steal popular ideas and get the products to market before the campaign is even over. Therefore, it’s even more important that I apply for my patents before the launch.
I did hours of research back in June to see if there were other products like mine already out there. Fortunately, the answer was no for two of the products as far as I can tell. For the last one, I can’t be sure as there is an US patent that might conflict, but I need a lawyer to look at that one harder.
This research also made me realise that it’s far too complex for me to apply directly – hence why I spoke with a patent attorney today.
After that teleconference, I decided to go ahead and apply for provisional patents in both Australia and the US for Product #3. These are my two target markets in the short to medium term. Hopefully, this will deter any scammers from trying to replicate my ideas, and further help my marketing campaign.
Unfortunately, the legal fees will be as much as the design costs. I can’t see another way around this though because the documents are so technically complex.
The only good thing is that this firm agreed to work with me on a deferred payment plan since I had worked with them before in previous jobs. If I’m successful in obtaining the grant next month, I’ll use part of that money to pay them. If not, I’ll have to pull that money out of my dwindling savings account.
I’ve been visiting family in mid-Western America this last few days, and it’s a bit of a shock to see so little concern about plastic waste here.
At restaurants, there are already straws in the water glasses before I can say no thanks. Every checkout other than Whole Foods gives out single-use plastic bags without concern. In grocery stores, it’s hard to find anything not meticulously wrapped in plastic packaging. Most every online shopping box that arrives at my brother’s house is full of plastic fillers.
On top of that, I found a just released study from the Environmental Protection Agency from 2015 (not sure why it took them so long) that showed only 9% of plastic is being recycled here in America. This is incredibly scary given that Australia has only 7% of the population of the US, but manages to recycled 32% of plastic. That’s still a lot of plastic going to landfills.
With the strong US petroleum industry and the high cost of recycled plastic, there’s little incentive to change without significant consumer demand. That’s why the solution in America that will likely have the biggest impact will be incinerators like the one being made by Sierra Energy. Their technology is meant turn rubbish to fuel or energy without also creating emissions.
Is this a solution that should also be considered in Australia? It already is.
The question isn’t really about which solution (i.e. reduce, recycle or reuse) because all three will likely be needed to help minimise the impacts of plastic rubbish.
Really it’s about changing people – although the hardest to do. This alone will make the biggest difference of all. And in Australia, based on the stats and my observations, it seems so far that we’re more willing to change than Americans when it comes to helping with this plastic problem.
While I legally started this business in April and was working on the idea before then, it was only today that I finally told most of my connections. Why did I wait so long? I guess – like other people, I was scared of failing in front of everyone.
I still am, but I rather live with failures than the regret of never trying.
I started to realise that I was missing out on opportunities by keeping my business a secret from my greater community. And I can also see other benefits in sharing my journey. For one, someone other than myself is holding me accountable now. 😉
Here’s the video that I posted earlier today about changing careers and starting this company. It will hopefully give you some insight about why I would choose to take such risks at this stage of my career.
One of the most difficult things about starting something completely new is when you don’t have a coach or mentor. While Google and YouTube has been decent in giving me an understanding of the recycled plastics manufacturing process, it hasn’t been so useful in answering my specific questions – like around pricing.
As much as I’ve asked around for the last few months, I still haven’t found a mentor or coach locally with plastics manufacturing experience. This is partially to do because I live in Canberra, Australia which is the nation’s capital. Here, most people work for or with the local and federal government rather than in industries like manufacturing.
So, I’ve expanded my network to outside of Canberra – first to Brisbane. Next week, I’ll be meeting with the CEO of a social enterprise accelerator who has already invested in circular economy type businesses like mine.
I’m more interested in meeting the other companies than I am in the program itself. It would be amazing to find a peer group of complimentary businesses all trying to do great things for the environment. With that type of network, I know that learning curve will flatten sooner too.