Royston Kent of B&C Plastics

Royston Kent – A plastics manufacturer for recycled materials

My podcast guest, Royston Kent is the co-founder and CEO of B&C Plastics, a product development and plastics manufacturing company based in Brisbane Australia. Recently, he’s had a change of heart for using recycled materials in his plastics manufacturing company.

Today, Royston’s company is actively recommending the use of recycled plastic feedstock, as well as promoting the circular life cycle opportunities of products.  Yet, this wasn’t always the case.  And even now, it’s quite unusual in the plastics manufacturing industry in general.

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, Royston shares his business journey and why he’s had a recent change of heart that has completely reset his company’s strategic direction – one that is putting sustainability in the heart of all they do.

B&C Plastics
Five Oceans
MAPET – Food grade PET plastic
Plastic Bank

Hosted by Tammy Ven Dange
Produced by Jonny Puskas
Theme Music by Joseph McDade


NOTE: This transcript has been edited for clarity.

T: Host Tammy Ven Dange
R: Guest Royston Kent, Co-founder of B&C Plastics

Royston Kent of B&C Plastics
Royston Kent of B&C Plastics


T: Royston welcome to the show.

R: Tammy thank you so much.

T:  I thought we should start off with a little story about how we first met. I was looking for a plastics manufacturer, and I was specifically looking for a one who did something with recycled plastic, and I have to say there weren’t a lot of choices when I did a Google search here in Australia. But I came across a story on your website. It was specifically a case study of one of your clients called Five Oceans. Do you want to talk about that project and how you got involved?


R: Well, I think it was certainly great that some of our competitors haven’t entered the space yet. And you did find us this time. So, thank you for that. I would say that when Five Oceans, Luisa and Felix first contacted us. They had this vision. They’re both surfers and they had this vision where they wanted just to give back. And they wanted to literally take ocean waste and create their own products, and their surfboard fin was just the first of that project.

T: But the plastic wasn’t from just anywhere. That actually was imported into Australia wasn’t it?

R: It was yes. So what they realized was that they do a lot of surfing, surf a lot throughout the world and in rough numbers about 65% of all ocean waste just sits above us here north of Australia in South Asia. And they do a lot of surfing in and around Bali and anyone that’s been to Bali would have seen firsthand the ocean waste that is there, and they generally wanted it to give back and create their products from ocean wastes so they actually engaged with a company – a recycling company in Indonesia. And that is where they actually sourced the ocean waste material from which we then imported into Australia.

T: So an Australian company importing waste from Bali . That usually happens the other way doesn’t it.

R: Yes. It certainly does.

T: I was actually in Bali in September last year surfing myself, and I saw that waste too. So once the waste came to Australia where did it go?

R: The waste had actually been cleaned and recycled to a point where it is now in a pellet form. So as a manufacturer we could now actually process that material and that’s where we started doing our trials of that. At that point.

T: OK. And what product did you create?

R: We created some surfboard fins.

T: Were they targeted for a tourist industry or just anyone in general?

R: Look  that’s probably a really good question that Felix and Luise would be able to answer it a lot better than me. But there was certainly some science and some engineering that actually went into the fin itself because I know the guys were very conscious on how rigid it needed to be. And the more advanced the surfer was, the more rigidity was needed in the fin. So there was some consideration in the actual material and in the actual design of the fin.

T: Were you able to use 100% recycled plastic in that product as a base?

R: We were. Yeah as a base it was 100% recycled, and we did have to add some additives back into it. We did have to add some glass fibre, and we had to add also some impact modifiers.

T: OK. So you said that was just the first of product lines. Have you continued to work with them with recycled plastic from Bali?

R: It’s interesting actually because Felix and Luise, they both contact us probably every month or two months. They’re quite innovative in their thinking, and they’ve got a few products up their sleeve.

R: They actually introduce us to other people that I think have the same awareness – that genuinely want to create products. And if we can reuse and recycle then that’s exactly the same kind of methodology these people are looking to apply. I actually have a conference call scheduled with Felix and Luise today at 5:00 PM actually, and they’re both back in Munich at the moment.


T: Okay interesting. I mean we’re just talking about one project for you. You’ve had hundreds of clients through here. What percentage of your clients, say in the last few years, are actually requesting recycled plastic?

R:  Very few. I think that’s to do with probably us as an industry because as an industry, it’s much easier for a manufacturer to source prime material and develop a product around the prime material.

R: And look why is that easier? Because from a processing perspective you know what you’re going to get. You know that if the supplier says you’re going to get this material. You’ve got the continuity. You’ve got the same repeatability from a manufacturing process.

R: So, when the manufacturer has no issues, then the client has no issues in terms of maybe a substandard product going to the marketplace.  What has changed though in recent times actually is recycling – reuse – reduce. We’re seeing that more and more now through the media where people are becoming more self-aware.

R: So, more and more businesses now are opting to look at this as a serious option. We can separate and clean the materials, and we can now get better continuity of supply. So, there are now more materials on offer for manufacturers to consider which obviously we can then consider what products can be made from those recycled materials from Australia.

R: There are there are a couple of companies.  I can give a plug here. Faerch –  they’ve got some new material called MAPET which is 100% percent recycled PET, and they’ve actually just got some FDA approvals for their manufacturing plants –  which means it’s food grade for a couple of their materials.

R: Now there’s also another company that reached out to me from Cairns and they were saying just recently that another company called Ashtron plastics actually has a fully recycled milk bottle, and they’re actually doing some extrusion. We’re looking at doing a collaboration there from an injection molded perspective on manufacturing these parts from 100% milk bottles.

T: Wow. OK. That’s a huge deal because – just to sort milk bottles is hard. It’s been a challenge I know for a lot of councils.

R: Yeah, 100%

T: Before we go into the manufacturing process really deep. I want to get to know you a little bit more. I think that your story is interesting in terms of how you got into manufacturing to begin with and obviously with your accent… and mine, we both didn’t start here in Australia. So, what brought you to Australia?


R: Really good question. So, I actually I was born in Surrey in 1970. So no hiding my age here, and my family actually moved to Adelaide when I was 1. So we lived in Adelaide until I was seven years old. We then moved from Adelaide to Brisbane until I was 13. We then moved back to the UK and so from the age of 13 to 27, I lived in the UK and I actually fell into the industry in the UK where I was.

R: I was looking for more. I knew that I’d been lucky enough to travel with my family from a very young age and travel the world. So I was very lucky to see that, and I knew there was more on offer than living in the current town Boston Lincolnshire. I knew there was just more to life on offer, and I I was I knew my only way out was to do something other than what I was doing

R: I actually thought my way out was to join the army. So I was actually waiting for my army dates to come through. And I’d been accepted in, and they told me I had a six month wait list.

R: I just actually closed down my first business which was a franchise selling sports equipment that we used to sell to leisure centres, sports centres and youth clubs and so I needed something to do for the next six months. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, her cousin actually worked for a plastic injection molding company, and they were just looking for someone to do some assembly line operation stuff, and I thought I’ll do that just to do something for the next six months.

R: And basically from there, I was taking any opportunities I could to get off the production line because it was just drove me crazy. They offered me an apprenticeship within about three months and it was either join the army or do the apprenticeship and I took the apprenticeship or the training that was associated with that. And that got me into plastic injection molding, and that’s where I started my plastics sort of tech experience.

T:  So how long did you do that for that particular company?

R: I worked in the UK for five years.

R: Yeah five years. My father just passed and it sort of freed me up then to leave the UK and then I convinced my wife and my two and a half year old daughter (she didn’t take any convincing) that Australia should be on our next ports. And Wendy agreed, and it happened very quickly.

R: Actually, because I had Australian citizenship, Wendy pretty much was qualified and so did Meghan and it was just a case of selling our house and applying for a job. I applied for a job and got a phone call actually from our largest competitor at the time and a gentleman called Roger Tonks who is very well known and very well respected in the industry especially up here in Brisbane in Queensland.

R: He is sort of one of the founders for plastic injection molding as an industry in Queensland. And like I said Roger – he offered me a job and he wanted me to actually start on the Monday.  I think he was talking to me on the Saturday, and I had to remind him that I was in the UK. And he said, “Well, can you be here in two weeks?” And I committed to it, and I did. I was there within two weeks. The same weekend, I got offered the job we actually had an offer on a house as well. So everything just fell into place nicely.

T: It was meant to be, wasn’t it?

R: Yeah.

T: So how long did you work for Roger.


R: I worked for Roger for eight years eight years.

T: And then?

R: Well, just about the seven-year mark with working for Roger’s company, I had a life changing moment where both my retinas came detached. I was lying in a hospital bed thinking, “What have I done and where am I going with my life?”  And I knew that I needed change.

R: I suppose to frame this a little bit, I had 20/20 vision in both eyes at my last test – better than 20/20 vision. Whereas, just before I actually went in to be operated on, they told me that I had better than 20/20 vision still in my left eye, but my right eye need to be operated on. And they told me that I was going to go blind if we didn’t operate, and there was still a good chance that I would go blind if they even if they did operate well. And so, they operated on me within about eight hours of being at the hospital.

R: And I remember lying in the hospital bed thinking “Wow” – just trying to reflect on the last 24 hours and reflecting obviously on my life.  And I just thought that I needed to see more, do more, participate more or give back more. I was just looking for more, and…

“I made a commitment to myself that as soon as I got the all clear from my specialist that I would do something different.”

R: And almost 12 months to the day, doing something different was acquiring B&C Plastics which at the time was probably an under-managed plastic injection molding company, and we acquired that with Bob Halsall.

T:  So, I’m sorry. I have to go back. My own mind needs to know this. Were you climbing Mount Everest or something when this occurred?

R: No. Look I played quite a bit of football in the UK – so soccer depending on who’s listening and I was a centre half/centre back. So, we did a lot of training in heading the football. So hitting a football is like being punched in the head.

R: So professional footballers actually get their eyes checked on a regular basis for retina detachment and so do boxers –  anyone that has sort of impacts to their head they get checked regularly but at the time it’s a semi pro and just local footballer – that wasn’t the case. We didn’t get our eyes checked. The specialist thought that was probably a disposition maybe for that as well, but that was that’s what caused it. It was playing soccer.

T:  Well, I hadn’t heard that before. Usually it’s high-altitude mountaineers where you hear this occurs to them.

T: So, life-changing experience – you decided to buy a company with a business partner.  And then?

R: Well I should go back just a little bit. So I’m having this conversation with myself about looking for a new job. I actually did get offered a job in Perth when I got the all clear from the hospital about six to nine months later.

R: I thought I was looking for something different, and I got offered a job in Perth. And they flew me over there, offered me the job and I came back and said to Wendy, “I’d like to take this job as the next opportunity to learn and grow.”

And Wendy said, “You know, I don’t actually want to travel halfway around the world again.”

T: Ha Ha! For those that aren’t familiar with Australia, Perth is on the other side of the country. It’s the only major city on the west coast of Australia.

R: It’s about a five-hour flight from Brisbane. So, it felt like halfway around the world to Wendy again. And so I picked up the phone, and I told them I couldn’t accept the job, and I actually was looking in the paper and that’s when we saw B&C Plastics.

R: I had a chat with my good friend, Bob Halsall, and we both said “Okay, let’s give it a shake.”

R: But I remember having this conversation with myself because at the age of 18 or 19, I had my first business where it was a franchise in essence, and it was pretty tough –  I think because it’s cold calling. It’s making your own appointments. It’s getting in front of people –  obviously getting those rejections. And I remember saying when we closed that business that I would never go in business for myself again.

R: So, I was reflecting on this as we’re looking at acquiring B&C Plastics.

T: So, what made you say yes knowing how hard it was going to be?

R: Really good question.  I just think that I had personally more to give, and I wanted to explore the business world a little bit more. And that was certainly the case.

“I just felt that I had more to give. I had more to do. More to learn. More to grow certainly, and that just seemed like a really good opportunity at the time.”

T:  I think about the complexities of manufacturing here. You are an engineer perhaps at that stage?

R: Moulding tech.

T: Moulding tech. Not even an engineer, and you’re taking on a manufacturing company that has designers and toolists. This is not a small takeover. It’s actually pretty complex. How did it go?

R: Look I think we had our bases covered especially between myself and Bob. So, Bob is a toolmaker by trade from the UK, and me having a good moulding tech background from the UK, and again just working in Australia for eight years. I think just between us – and I also had a sales background as well, and I connect well with people.

R: You know there’s a saying that people tend to do business with people they like or want to be like. And that’s certainly the case for me. And I just felt that like my own approach in terms of sales and technician is very much about educating the people. Actually educating is possibly the wrong word, but informing the clients and informing the supplier and aligning values with the actual direction of where I wanted to go.

R: So I think it was okay really. Look – Bob had the design covered. He had the engineering covered. I had the moulding tech skills covered and we had the sales base covered. So we thought that we had most of our bases covered when we started.


T: And, how did you fund the business.

R: How did we fund it? We actually got loans against our homes. We actually got small business loans and with the equity, we put up our homes at risk.

T: Big risk.

R: Yeah, I think it was a risk at the time. Probably, we didn’t really look at it as a risk. We obviously knew that it was, and we had lots of skin in the game, and we were determined. And to be honest, we probably we were too naïve, and we had no business acumen, and we learnt that very quickly.

“The first six months were very, very difficult.”

R: I remember having a good friend coming to see me and saying, “You know what? You’ve got the skill set. You know you can do this. Just keep persevering.” The guy’s name was David Hitchmore.

R: We actually worked together for a number of years, and I remind him of that because that conversation sticks in my mind when he said, “No. Just keep going. Keep going. Persevere,” you know.

R: So the first six months are very difficult you know. I think we lost money for the first two years. Going backwards – (before) I had a good job, I had good hours. Then, my wage halved, my hours doubled, and we worked a lot harder than we probably should have done. And we didn’t have the acumen or the smarts we do now.

T: Yeah I think it a common story amongst entrepreneurs.

T: What year did you start?

R:  We started in 2006.


T: OK. So 12 years on, you decided to make some major changes not just with the business relationship with Bob but also in terms of the direction of the company. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

R: So I love nature, and I love getting off the beaten track. And I think most people do. You see this resurgence now. I think 50% of all cars that are bought now are four-wheel drives or four-wheel drive utes.

T: At least in Australia.

R: Sorry. At least in Australia.

R: And so I actually think there’s this momentum now. When you have a look at the industry (the lifestyle industry), the people want to get back to nature more and more, and I was certainly enjoying that. We just noticed that on the beaches, even in remote areas, that there’s rubbish everywhere. And, we can see certainly an evidence of man (let’s say) everywhere or human-kind anyway. We just thought that,

“You know – we actually need to be responsible ourselves here.”

R: And for a long time, I’d push back on using recycled materials in terms of as a business strategy. It was always considered to be like, “We can do that if you really want to.”

And then we just thought hang on, “

You know – one person, one organisation can make a change.”

R: So there’s lots of people out there now looking to make these changes, and I think we just had that self-awareness moment. You know personally, we can make a difference here.

“We can make a difference in the way that we develop product for our clients and for ourselves.”

T: So you made a statement just a minute ago saying, “Well, if you really want to use recycled plastic” – essentially it was what you were referring to. Why is it that manufacturers do not like using recycled plastic?

R: It is really just the continuity of supply. Often, I think that’s the main reason. So as more and more of us jump on board with the “Recycle, Reuse and Reduce” sort of ethos, what we will find in Australia is that we’re going to have issues with feedstock.

R: And so again that will start to change as we start to get people recycling more and organisations recycling, cleaning and reproducing these materials or reusing these materials so they can be repurposed. And we’ve obviously got the globe. You know – the world – that we can actually get materials from as well. We’ve actually got some feelers out looking at that now. It’s really interesting.

T: They’re looking for global suppliers a recycled plastic?

R:  Yes, 100 percent.


T: So what’s the difference in cost? Because I know that’s been a deterrent for a lot of people to consider using recycled plastic as a feedstock versus virgin plastic.

R: Look I think it’s a great question. Traditionally when people look to use a recyclables, they’re looking to use a recycled material because it’s cheap. So that’s what’s been on the market for a long time. So it means that you’re limited on the products that you can actually put the material into and then offer them. People are just looking for price. So it’s a commodity – parts for something that’s going to get buried in concrete.   

R: Now or what’s actually happening is that more and more engineering materials are becoming available and with the availability of these materials, it’s opening up this whole range of products that we can now develop for. So it’s changing from a price perspective.

R: Sometimes it’s the same as a prime material. Sometimes it’s less. Sometimes it is a little bit more just depending on the complexity of repurposing that material.

T: It’s interesting too because when I was looking at feedstock, I saw that recycled materials were actually costing more than virgin plastic. Was that just an anomaly that I happened to stumble upon?

R: No you’re right. It does depend on the actual material in the feedstock. You know when we talk about plastics, you know there are tens of thousands of plastics. And that’s part of the problem that we have in terms of recycling and getting the consistency of clean feedstock and having that separation.

R: So, it depends on the material of that feedstock, depends on what work goes into separating it, cleaning and reproducing it, and what additives have to go back into it just to give it its properties back so it can be used.  It can certainly affect the price.


T: We’ve also talked about color for some of my products that are indoor products. I don’t want them to be black, and we’ve talked about the challenges of getting feedstock that doesn’t have some level contamination in terms of color in it that turns everything into this ugly gray essentially. Is that still an issue, at the moment, here in Australia?

R: Yeah, look it’s probably an issue everywhere because if you have a think about the how many different plastics are out there. And then for example, a lot of people ideally would like a clear because if they can get a clear or natural colour, it can be coloured to anything they like.


R: What’s really interesting – I mean I actually had a conversation about a month ago with David Katz and he is doing some fantastic work with the Plastic Bank, and he actually just met with the Pope (which is another story) just recently at the Vatican.

T: We’ll have to follow up on that story.

R: What he said was that in India currently, he said that previously there’s been this real pushback on color. And he says that what they’re finding now is it’s becoming more and more of an acceptance of having this sort of multi-colored, looking part.

R: And he said the reason for that is if it’s multicolored, then everyone knows immediately it’s recycled. And so people seem to be accepting that more and more, which I thought was really interesting. Now David’s from Canada, and so certain parts of the world are certainly more forward-thinking maybe than others and more accepting of that. So, it would be interesting to see who would really accept that and in what products.

T: Well certainly I know that my own products – some of them are indoor products that you use in your home. And that would be challenging because most people don’t want anything but a white or cream-colored piece of furniture in their house as an example.

R: Yeah. One hundred percent. And so, we are limited on how much clear or natural plastics, and where we can source it.  What will happen is that it will become more of a premium price because more and more people will source it. As you know now, recycled materials is becoming more and more of a commodity now, as well as, becoming a currency you know.

T: Yeah. I mean that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to create demand for a product that might otherwise go into the tip.

T: So, my question then goes back to what we started to talk about, and then we kind of sidetracked on the complexities of working with recycled plastic.

T: You made some decisions as a company, so you (obviously the leader of the company) last year, to change your strategic direction. And I actually grabbed this off your website. I hope you don’t mind. And it actually talked about “Our Why.” So, I assume this is what you consider your mission statement of sorts.

Everyday we believe in pushing the boundaries of discovery through innovation and technology to recycle, reuse and reduce.”

T: That’s unusual for a manufacturing company – especially one that didn’t start off wanting to do work in recycled plastic. What changed?

R: I think it was just that social awareness more and more. Look, Five Oceans actually may have helped us just shift our thinking a little bit there as well.

“We realised from a business perspective that we can make a difference. And so, we literally just started to strategise with that within the organisation.”

R: We had some people come and help us with that strategy, and we put the strategy piece together. We involved our team all the way through it. We’ve been talking to our suppliers. We’ve been talking to our customers and everyone said, “Look, we’re on board with you. Let’s do this!”

So we thought,

“Let’s take the lead. Let’s change our strategy. Let’s make a difference.”


T: Are you going to have to let some customers go if you’re going down this direction?

R: So what we’re saying with our customers right now is that if we were to base (I believe anyway from the research that I’ve done) just our business on fully recycled materials alone, we don’t know how long we’d be in business for.

R: So what we’re saying to our customers as we look at the projects, “Let’s have a look at the materials that can be recycled. So, if we haven’t got a feedstock available that’s 100% recycled, let’s have a look at ‘Reuse.’  Once the products come to the end of its lifecycle, how are we going to close the loop? How can we capture that material and recycle it and put it back to close that loop?” So those are the conversations we’re having.

T: Okay. So, you’re looking truly at a circular economy – that if you have to start with virgin materials for whatever reason – that you will have a way to take that material and recycle it back into the process somehow?

F:  100 percent.

T: Yeah. Brilliant! And that was one of the criteria that I had in my own business for you. So that’s lovely to hear that other companies are considering the circular economy need as well.


T: I know you have some of your own projects that you’re working on too.

R: They’re top secret. Ha ha!

T: Yeah well, we don’t have to talk about things.  Can we say – are you planning to use recycled plastics?

R: Yeah, we are. Look, I suppose if you have a look at the horizon – sort of two and three projects – we are looking at our own proprietary products in the lifestyle space, and we are looking at fully recycled materials.


R: There’s also recycled materials now from a 3D printing or digital manufacturing which is on offer as well. So that’s really interesting. We’re happy to obviously injection mould 100% recycled materials for our products. And the other horizon we’re looking at is what can we actually digitally manufacture using recycled materials as well.

R: Now it might not always be the case again we can use a 100% recycled material, but as long as we’re looking at closing the loop when the product comes into its lifecycle, it’s going to fit in with our strategy and our purpose – Our Why.

T: When you talk about laser printing in general, I think a lot of people don’t quite understand how that works. You’re specifically talking about small quantities of maybe customised products when you’re thinking about 3D printing – is that right?

R: Interesting – that technology is evolving, and we are actually heading our way over to Frankfurt in November for one of the largest digital manufacturing trade fairs. And so there’s technology there now that does allow you to actually print or digitally manufacture 3D print in scale. Over the last few years, technology has changed for the machinery and probably more importantly or just as importantly the actual materials themselves have evolved as well. So there is certainly an opportunity in that space.

T: Okay. Well, I’ll be definitely looking for it for my own products. To know that we could do 3D manufacturing could certainly make things faster and cheaper if you don’t have to buy moulds. It is obviously the biggest cost of manufacturing.


T: The average person doesn’t know that much about manufacturing, you know. They don’t understand recycling in terms of what they’re doing in their own household bins and how that might impact the materials that you’re getting to put into new products.

T:  Are there any tips or just information you want to share with our listeners about recycled products and how it impacts what you’re trying to do on the manufacturing side?

R: That’s a really good question. I reckon it actually just starts as something simple – it starts at home. You know, so many of us have a recycle bin and so many of us just throw something that can be recycled into the (normal) bin. It goes to landfill. Now, maybe over the last few years, that certainly changed.

We’ve obviously got recycle bins and hopefully now most of the stuff that’s been recycled in the recycle bins is going to recycling and separation stations so it can genuinely be recycled and reuse.

Just starting at home and becoming aware. This is so important. We often think that we can’t make a difference ourselves individually. But often, if we’re making a difference individually, it just we have this this positive effect that just rolls on through the family and our friends and other contacts. So, there’s a really good starting point there.

And I think, just with having that mindset – having that sort of front of mind, it then leads through to everything you think, you say, you do in your life. And if you’re genuinely looking at developing your own products or changing materials on your current products, it just shifts the way that we think – a little bit anyway.  We can sort of influence the end user a little bit – then maybe, as well if we’re talking from a business perspective.

T: Yeah for sure. So Royston, how can our listeners find you if they want to connect with you online? For your website? What would you recommend?

R: Yeah. Look we are up online like everybody else is. We’ve got our website, We’ve got a contact form there, and there are some phone numbers as well. That’s the best way to find us.

We’ve got Linkedin Profiles and some social media profiles. The website and the phone are always the best place and the point of contact.

T: Fantastic. Is there anything else you wanted to share with our listeners before we go?

R: No. Just thank you, Tammy, for reaching out to us. And thank you for putting me in the spotlight here with this podcast.

T: You’re very welcome. I’m sure down the road we’ll talk about it further because I would be very interested in knowing how many new customers you bring onboard that are specifically interested in you because of recycled plastic and also the challenges of the supply of feedstock into the products you’re trying to make for people like me because I know that that’s going to be potentially a bottleneck for us in the future. And what are we going to do about it? But at the same time so many of us are making things out of recycled plastic so that plastic doesn’t go into the tip.

So thank you very much and for your time today, and thanks for thinking broader beyond just making things.