Rob Pascoe of Closed Loop:

Creating circular solutions through eco-systems

In this 2-part series of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Rob Pascoe of Closed Loop Environmental Solutions headquartered in Melbourne, Australia.  Long before recycling was mainstream, Rob created circular solutions for the likes of the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Qantas.

In the first part, we talk about Rob’s business, and how he managed to scale so quickly to support his large clients by creating an ecosystem with other businesses.

In Part 2, we talk about his newest circular solution for local councils.  We also learn more about his passion for solving food waste issues too.

I hope you enjoy this 2 episode series of Plastics Revolution with Rob Pascoe of Closed Loop

Companies, Organisations and Products Mentioned in this Podcast:

Closed Loop
Simply Cup
Farmer’s Place


Hosted by Tammy Ven Dange
Produced by Jonny Puskas
Theme Music by Joseph McDade
All Rights Reserved 2020

Full Transcript

This transcript has been modified for clarity.


T: Tammy Ven Dange, Host
D: Rob Pascoe, Founder of Closed Loop Environmental Solutions


T: Rob, welcome to the show.

R:  Great to be here, Tammy. And fantastic job you’re doing, turning the spotlight on a big issue.

T:  Thank you so much.

T:  I first found out about Closed Loop, first of all, through one of your brands called Simply Cups. And specifically, it was a recycling stand on my local 7-Eleven probably two years ago. And it was the first time I seen anything like that.

A Simply Cups Collection Stand at 7-Eleven
A Simply Cups Collection Stand at 7-Eleven

T: And then recently, our mutual contact, David Hodge, who’s also been a guest on the show, he had worked with you on a project recently. I really wanted to know more about you and your business as a result of that.

How to recycle a paper coffee cup?

T: Can we start first with a question that a lot of our listeners probably have, and that is, “Why can’t we recycle a paper (coffee) cup?”

R: Well, it’s a great question. And the reason we establish Simply Cups is for exactly that reason, Tammy, because we found that cups weren’t being recycled and I couldn’t ever understand why. I always thought, as a myriad of other people do, that because they were paper that they could, in fact, be recycled through the paper stream.

R: We always knew that the old polystyrene foam cups couldn’t be recycled. But we didn’t realise, I don’t think the community realised that we couldn’t actually recycle the paper coffee cup. The reason why can’t recycle it, quite simply, is because to make it liquid proof so that it doesn’t leak, it needs to have a polyethylene lining – a very thin layer of plastic (Glad Wrap if you like) that’s bonded to that paper.

R: It’s bonded quite strongly to the paper. And then the cup is made from that plastic or poly-coated fibre, as we call it. And it’s very difficult to remove that plastic lining from the paper. You can do it, but it takes, in commercial paper recycling in the pulpers, it takes too long for that plastic to come off paper.

R: So, in essence, the humble coffee cup can’t be recycled, nor can any of the products that are made out of poly-coated fibre.

The beginnings of Closed Loop

T:  I think that that’s one good reason why your company is around to help us out along with some other solutions that are out there. But I know that Simply Cups is not your first venture into recycling. Let’s talk about how you first started with what’s called Closed Loop Environmental Solutions today. How did you come up with that idea?

R: Well, I came up with the idea generally because I hate waste. That’s always been my mantra, if you like, Tammy. I’ve always been obsessed with it. I don’t understand how we have become such a “throwaway society.”

R: And I often say to people in talks that we’d never used to be like this. My grandmother – people of that generation living through the 20th century didn’t throw things away. They reduce everything. They reuse clothes as cleaning cloths. They refilled milk bottles and they use jars for putting jam in and etc. So we’ve become a society that just throws things away, and it’s not right.

R: I often show a picture of a bottle or a cup or something inside. Now if it’s made out of plastic, we turn it into a beautiful product and we use it for a couple of minutes if we’re having a drink out of a plastic cup and then we throw it away, Put it back in the hole in the ground for a hundred years old or more. And I couldn’t understand how that happened.

R: My background is in marketing. In the 90s, I had a marketing business, and I went to Visy Industries, a big paper and recycling company in Australia. And I talked to them about making food packaging out of recycled paper and then establishing a system where we could take that packaging back, recycle it and make it back into the packaging again. So that was the birth of the Closed Loop system.

R: The first program that we ran on that was at an agricultural show in Sydney, called the Sydney Easter Show.  We supplied all of the packaging to the caterers and the catering outlets there on the basis that we could take it all back, recycle it and make it back into packaging again. So that in 1996 was the first program that we actually ran as a full closed-loop program.

R: Visy established a dedicated division within their organisation in 1997.  I went up and ran that division, and we called it Visy Special Events just to do packaging and recycling programs, particularly food packaging or food service packaging for the venue and event industry.

The 2000 Sydney Olympics

R: Following that, we ran a massive program on the Olympics in Sydney in 2000. And that was basically to try and divert as much waste as we could from landfill, again, by controlling all of the inputs. So now it wasn’t just about food packaging, it was about everything.

R: It was making all of the signage out of recycled bottles, all the fence and signage that went around the grandstands and directional signage.  We built the media centre out of cardboard and plastic in terms of wall panels, in terms of furniture, etc. So, it was a really, really great result.

R: And we delivered over 80% conversion from landfill by basically collecting everything and recycling it.

Buying back the company

R: So I post the Olympics in 2001, I bought the division back from out of Visy, and we’re changed the name to Closed Loop because we weren’t just doing those programs for the venue and event industry.

R: We were working with what might be a takeaway food restaurant, or a school or a shopping centre or a hospital or even an airline. And we picked up a big contract with Qantas to supply them with packaging on the basis that we could take it all back. So that’s the part of history, Tammy, as far Closed Loop and how it came about.

R: Today, we’re still doing exactly the same thing. What we’re doing, though, specifically is we’re trying to collect products that aren’t currently being recycled, problem products like we talked about before with a coffee cup and then making them back into products again or manufacturing them back into products that can be used again and again. And we call that upcycling when we turn it into a product that we’ve been used continually as opposed to a single use.

Closed Loop scaling quickly

T: OK, so we need to go back probably a couple steps, because what you just define over the last 20 years is a very simple process. I know it couldn’t have been that easy. And I want to start with the very first event that you did because… Okay, you partnered with a really large company. Visy is still a very large company, but for you to take an idea and to pretty much say our pilot (project) is going to be one of the biggest events in Sydney on an annual basis. What possessed you with the knowledge or the confidence to know that you can use it as a pilot, basically?

R: Well, I think that when we first approached this issue, the issue being, “How do we get rid of waste. How do we treat waste as a resource?” Because it is a resource, of course. And I think the simplest way for us to go about that was by using a lot of existing processes, manufacturing processes, waste systems, recycling programs, etc. So Closed Loop is really a dot joining business.

R: And to give me the confidence, I knew that there were a lot of organisations out there who could do parts of these if we if we drew on a map, a closed loop program, starting with manufacturing, let’s say a coffee cup. Selling it to a caterer, and then collecting the coffee cup from a venue, then transporting it back to a sorting facility where we can sort all of the different recyclable products there.

R: All of these processes around the loop were already in existence. There was nobody joining all of the dots. So, the confidence really changed from knowing that people could do this, knowing that organisations could do this. And in fact, in Australia, we had and still have now some fantastic manufacturing organisations that do exactly what I need them to do in terms of being able to take waste and turn it back into magnificent products. And you’ve spoken to a lot of them on the podcast.

Setting up the eco-system

T: But at the same time, to know that there’s a lot of people that do the individual pieces… the ability to make money with that entire process, especially if you’re outsourcing bits of it, is actually quite a business plan in itself.

R: Yes.

T: And from what I can see, you went from this Easter event to the Olympics and to Qantas. You didn’t start small at all. It’s not the usual pathway that a lot of people take. So, I guess what I’m trying to do is understand your mindset that made you able to go beyond the small business thinking that a lot of people have and say, “Let’s think big, let’s think where we could have the greatest impact.”

R: Yeah. Good question. So, I think the answer to that – “What gives you the confidence to go big?” is that it’s a big problem. We’re talking about a lot of waste. We’re talking about a lot of resources. And really the guidance, if you like, was the whole reason that underpins this is we need to actually have markets for the products. This is really where recycling has struggled over the last few decades, is that we need to have markets for the product.

R: I knew that these organisations that you’ve just mentioned like Qantas were buying an enormous amount of packaging for their in-flight food service. I knew that the Olympics were going to be purchasing a lot of packaging for catering and for a whole lot of other reasons, as well.

R: So, they were the ones who gave me the scale. The manufacturers could manufacture package to that scale. I just wanted the manufacturers to use recycled materials instead of using virgin raw materials wherever they could.

R: And plastics and paper and steel and glass and aluminium are all very good products for being able to be recycled and turned back, in a lot of cases, back into that original purpose. And in plenty of cases you can turn them into something else. So, the scale was already there. I was just working with the people where I knew there was that big demand for the products that we would make.

R: Now, you’ve got to remember back 20 years ago, 25 years ago, this was a very novel concept. People didn’t really get it. Not like we do today. People didn’t understand the importance of buying back products that are made out of recycled materials. So it was tough, but I knew the scale was there.

Closed Loop business model

T: And it sounds like what you did to begin with was set up the ecosystem rather than trying to become the manufacturer, rather than becoming the expert on recycling. It sounds like you were the salesperson to find the customer that wanted to do the right thing. And then you had all these partners that were helping you achieve these things. Is that correct?

R: Yes, absolutely. So, we were the facilitator, if you like, the enabler to put all of that together. Certainly, I wasn’t interested in getting into manufacturing, into even collecting like the waste industry or sorting the products like the recyclers do with their material recovery facilities and so on.

R: We were really just saying, “We’ll use the existing infrastructures that are there because those people know what they’re doing. We’ve just got to work with the end customer to make sure they’re buying back the product that is made out of their waste. Why do they need to buy it back? Because it’s their waste.”

T: So then, your business is funded through the contracts that you generate with the customers, and then you basically outsource individual pieces of this entire process to the various experts in their space. Is that correct?

R: Correct. Yes.

T: OK. And so that would allow you to scale up much faster than someone who is trying to set up the infrastructure themselves.

R: Yes, that’s right. And also, if you’re setting up the infrastructure itself, you can hit a roadblock with that. If you’re a manufacturer and you’re only manufacturing, let’s say, widgets, and the market now needs gidgets. You’ve got to scale up again. Where I can just go to the gidget manufacturer, if that makes sense.

T: Yeah. Are you guys actually manufacturing anything yourself today or are you still in that same exact business model that you started years ago?

R: We’re still in this exact same business model. We do have an interest in in some of the technologies that have been created around plastics, around organics, for example, food waste – turning food waste into fertiliser or through the compost process. But our interest is only in the technology, not in the actual manufacturing. So, the short answer is no, we don’t have any manufacturing. It’s still exactly the same model.

A case study of the Closed Loop business model

T:  OK, so let’s do a little bit of a case study. I know that your recent project was with Plastic Forests and their air conditioning mounting blocks. Let’s talk about where you guys worked in that process with Plastic Forests. What part of that supply chain do you guys provide the value just so we have a better understanding of that?

T: So who actually collects the waste to begin with?

R: Well, we organised for the waste to get collected. So that particular product is a product that’s made out of coffee cups and contaminated or previously contaminated plastics, which were flexible plastic – soft plastic like shrink wrap and shopping bags and so on. And we mix it with coffee cups.

R: The reason why we mix it with coffee cups is because you’re adding a little bit of plastic in the coffee cups, but you’re also adding some paper fibres. So that gives a much stronger result because the paper fibre adds rigidity to it.

R: So, we supply Plastic Forests with a mix of coffee cups or hot cup material that we have processed into a shredded raw material. Where do we get the coffee cups from? We get the coffee cups from wherever people take coffee cups.

Closed Loop work with 7-Eleven

R: We went to 7-Eleven, which you talked about (earlier). We went to 7-Eleven a couple of years ago, and we’re talking to them because they had an issue with putting an enormous amount of coffee cups out into the marketplace every day, every year. They were going through 70 million coffee cups in a couple of years ago. And they were saying to us, “How can we recycle these coffee cups? Because it’s a real concern to us that we’re creating this environmental issue.”

R:  So we said, “Well, we can set up a program that will be capable of collecting cups. It’s going to take us a few years to get there to be able to get to that critical mass of collecting that many coffee cups. It’s an enormous number, but we can’t guarantee that we can collect the 7-Eleven cups because we don’t know where they go. What we can do, however, is we can set up a program that will be capable of collecting, processing and turning back into new products, 70 million coffee cups.”

R: “In other words, it’s like an offset program. You’re putting 70 million cups into the marketplace, and we’ll be in a position to take 70 million cups back out. They may not be yours, but that doesn’t matter because you’re the ones who are paying for the collection, and then enabling the program.“

Expanding the Simply Cups program

R:  So, we then went to places where coffee cups go to, Tammy. We went to offices, a lot of office buildings. We went to construction sites, universities, cafes, 7-Eleven’s themselves and said to people, if you want to, you can bring your coffee cup back.

R:  If you’re a tradie, for example, and you have your coffee every morning in your ute or truck. If you’re going to have your coffee in the morning, and it’s still in your cup holder, take it back to the 7-Eleven the next day and put it in one of the collection tubes.

R: Or indeed, if you’re a small office and can’t have your own collection system, you can take the cups back into a 7-Eleven store. So, we collecting cups on behalf of 7-Eleven and now a lot of others and then we’re processing those cups.

R: So how do we collect them? We collect them. We have a transport partner, ShredX. They collect the cups for us as dedicated pickup service. And then we take those cups, process them, and then we supply them to a myriad of suppliers.  

R: David at Plastic Forests is certainly one of them. And he can make those products into a stiff plastic wood mix that can be used for a whole heap of purposes. In fact, one of the purposes that he makes is these car park stoppers, as does another manufacturer that we use called Plastech. We supply those coffee cups into making these carpark bumpers that then go back to 7-Eleven stores and put into the car park.

T: A true closed loop.

R:  Yeah. That’s right. So that’s true the loop’s closed, and there would be at least a dozen organisations and people involved in that loop. So that as I said before, that’s where we facilitate – join the dots, if you like, put the whole thing together. But our customer in this case is 7-Eleven.

T: But you are now processing the waste as well, which is an additional capability that you didn’t have when you first started. That was Visy that was doing it at the beginning, right?

R: Yeah. Well, when I say we’re processing it, we’re getting people to process it. So it initially it was Visy, but it was a lot of other people as well, particularly around plastics.

The positive impact of the China Sword policy

R: One of the one of the things that I would like to talk about, which links in very closely to this is – if we look at the history of how the closed loop process works, not just for us, but for everybody. In fact, people call it the “circular economy” now. Same thing of taking waste and turning it back into a product again. And that’s the circular economy.

R: We hit a big stumbling block as an industry in the circular economy or in closed loop probably from the early 2000s up to maybe 2003, 2004 until really the start of last year.

R: That stumbling block was that where we used to originally go to organisations and say we can take back your waste, and we can recycle it. And that was unique because it was almost like a packaging rental program where we would take back the waste and recycle it. And that was our unique selling because we were making that back into products.

R: What happened in around 2003, 2004 was that a lot of the developing nations, China in particular, became very hungry for resource. So they were basically buying the world’s waste or your taking the world’s waste for less than landfill. So, our opportunity is going to organisations and saying we can take your waste and recycle it. They were saying, “Well, anybody can do that.” And in fact, anybody was.  In fact, it was heading off to China.

R: So, it really stifled our investment as a nation in infrastructure, in technology and being able to use recycled resources as part of the cornerstone for manufacture. Of course, as you would have discovered at the end of 2018, China was the first country to ban taking the world’s waste through the China Sword. That was a fantastic solution for us.

R: Fantastic solution for us. Because everybody was saying to me that I spoke to at the time (this became a massive news story), was why are we sending our waste to China or Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam anywhere? Why are we sending our waste? We thought by putting our products into the recycling bin, you guys (the recycling industry) we’re making stuff out of it.

R: And of course, we’d say, “Well, we have been, but it’s been difficult for us to actually get that product because we’ve been uncompetitive in being able to take that waste because it’s been exported. So, fantastic for us now that we have all of this product, and we’re playing catch up of trying to get a lot of the industries and technologies to commercially viable stages where they can actually make products that we can supply back to the customers again.

R: So, it’s been an interesting time for us. It’s actually fantastic I think for the planet, because we’re now making stuff. We’re not transporting stuff from halfway around the world when a big chunk is finishing up in landfill and in the oceans anyway because they’re only picking out the bits that they want. We’ve now got opportunities to use all of the waste.

R: And that’s a great example that David Hodge has at Plastic Forests where he is taking a product that would have previously been exported or more likely finished up in the world’s oceans.

T: It’s such an interesting viewpoint, Rob, because I don’t think a lot of people hear this side of it.



Circular solutions for councils and food waste

T:  Rob, given your point of view, you’re in a really interesting situation because you can see both sides of the supply and the demand. What’s it going to take for us to get more companies to use Australian based recycled plastic, and what’s it going to take to get consumers to see the value in this type of product, even if it may cost a little bit more?

R: That really gets to the whole nub of the issue, and why I’m so excited right now as to where we can head. Every single state and territory of Australia has front page news on most days about the recycling crisis, the waste crisis, etc. And why is that a crisis? I’ll tell you why it’s a crisis, and then I’ll tell you the solution.

T: Okay.

The Waste Crisis

R: The crisis we have now as a society, not just in Australia – society has become wedded to recycling. We get it. We get that we cannot keep putting resource into landfill. You could pick any commodity.  

R: I often use food waste is a great example because 55% of landfills have organic waste going into them, and organic waste going into landfill is a catastrophe because it creates methane gas and a greenhouse gas, etc. But from my perspective, it’s a waste. It’s a waste of a resource when that has the very nutrients that we need to put back into the soil as fertilisers.

R:  We live on the most soil depleted continent on the planet in Australia. And we are burying this fantastic resource. As I say, millions of tonnes of it and then go out and purchase fertilisers that are also made from the same finite resources to try and put the nutrients back into the soil. It’s just dumb.

R: So, my point is that society is wedded to recycling. They get it. They get that we cannot continue to do this. So, we can’t put waste or resource to landfill. We can’t export it anymore because no country will take it. And last year, we introduced legislation in Australia to ban us from sending a lot of our waste overseas anyway or exporting it so we can’t export it. We can’t landfill it.

R: And now the EPA, the Environmental Protection Authorities in nearly every state are saying that you can’t stockpile it. We had massive fires in Victoria last year and it’s dangerous to stockpile this waste. It causes a lot of environmental degradation. So, we can’t stockpile it. That therein lies the crisis.

R: What do we do with the stuff that we can’t export? We can’t bury it. What do we do with it? I’ll tell you what we do with it – we recycle it. So how do we get people to do this? Here’s my solution:

Closed Loop solution for Councils

R: I’m going to the major producers of waste at the moment, which are municipalities – councils throughout the country. And I’m saying to them I want to put in, what I call, closed loop resource hubs. A closed loop resource hub is a modular system where we put in anywhere between four and ten technologies – like a David Hodge plastics plant right there on site, and we make products out of those materials for councils.

R: So, I’m going to councils right now and saying to them, “I can take all of your waste. You’ve got a big problem with your waste, and I can take all of your waste right now. I can process it, and I can make stuff for you out of it.”

R: What do I need from council? “I need you to supply me with a long-term contract for raw material.” Raw material is waste. So, of course, that’s an easy solution for them. They have to pay, but they pay less than it would cost them to landfill it. It’s linked to the landfill price. So, it’ll always be cheaper than landfill.

R: The second thing I need from them is land so that we can put in all of these different technologies. They’re not mine. They are other people’s technologies. We just again, join the dots as to what we need, what technologies we need to handle the waste that is there.

R: The third thing I need from council is a matching long-term contract to purchase back all of the products that we make out of their waste. Now the first question at council will say is, “Well, what do you make? What are you going to make out of it?”

R: “I’ll make products that you’re currently consuming in your municipality. That might be anything from roads to fenceposts to bike paths. Councils and government are massive consumers. So, we say, “We’ll make product for you, and you have to buy it back provided you already have a budget to purchase equivalent products. These are the conditions that we’ll meet.”

R: The second thing is that the product needs to be fit for purpose, which means it needs to meet the standards and quality of the products they’re already purchasing.

R: And the third thing is it needs to be commercially viable. So, doesn’t mean that if they can if they’re already buying a fencepost for $9, that ours might be $10. But that’s commercially viable because they’re saving it through the whole process because they’re paying less for landfill upfront than they would have paid.

R: So if you put the whole loop together, councils will finish up better off. Why will councils have to buy back the product? Because it’s their waste.

R: Long answer to your question, Tammy. But how do we get people to buy back? Because that’s the secret. That’s actually the tipping point. We have to get demand for the products made out of recycled material. How do we get that to happen? By making those responsible for creating the waste, responsible for taking back the product that is (made of) their waste. That’s the only way it’s going to work.

T: It’s interesting that that you’re talking about bringing in a full circle solution, because it just recently I was looking at a couple of different governments because there’s been a lot of promises about changing their procurement policies so that they would be required to buy a percentage at least, of recycled material products. And that was probably, what, 12 months ago that both the federal government and even our local government here had made those promises?

T: Now, I actually asked our local minister a couple of months ago about how that was going, because I hadn’t seen any changes in legislation or even anything that’s been tabled as a legislation that’s going to be transformed. And he seemed to think that it was a hard thing to do, but they’re working through it.

T: And I just wonder, I know there’s a plastic summit next month here (in Canberra) that the federal government is sponsoring.

R: Yes.

T: I don’t know if that might be the time that they finally get the inputs that they need to get these procurement requirements across the line. But I love the idea of having councils, that have a lot more power of making these closed loop decisions, to be giving them a full business case that starts from collection of waste into landfill and the final product that they’re probably already buying out of timber right now.

R: Yes. While governments can make these statements, if you like, policies – they find it difficult to enact them, as you say, because this goes back to the previous topic we’re talking about scale. We don’t have scale yet of the manufacturing.

R: So that’s why I’m saying the need to go to people who buy a lot of product. They’re the very same people that create a lot of waste. Because then you are able to make product economically viable in terms of the costs of the product, but also the quality of that.

Scale will make recycled material products cheaper

R: People say that recycling is always going to cost more. Well, it only costs more because we’re small scale. If we’re large scale, it’s actually cheaper, and it has to be cheap. Plastics are a great example of this because the cheapest plastics are now about $1200 a tonne for virgin resin. We’re starting with a price of minus $250 a tonne minimum – cheaper than landfill.

R: So, you’re starting with a sort of $1400-$1500 a tonne price differential in using recycled material than using virgin material. So, it has to make sense. People say that it’s the cost of sorting it out. Yeah, I get it. But don’t underestimate the power and interests of the consumers to do their separation.

R: People told me, ”Oh, people are never going to separate coffee cups, but we’ve just collected our 10 millionth coffee cup. So, people love it. People love contributing because when they’re putting their cup into one of our cup collections sleeves or bins, they feel like they’re donating. They feel like they’re make a contribution because they know that it’s happening.

R: Why would people not recycle? Because they don’t believe it’s happening. They hear a lot of stories about the truck that comes down the street and puts the recycling bin in with the garbage or whatever. And the media loves those sorts of stories. And then people say, “Well, why would I bother recycling if it’s not happening? We’ve got to show people that it does happen, that it is real and that we can make products out of it.

R:  And, you know, with this concept that I’m talking about with councils, it doesn’t have to be councils. It can be major organisations as well like Qantas, like the fast food restaurants. You know, we need to get the fast food restaurants. KFC do a fantastic job at recycling all their waste. But, you know, their major competitor don’t recycle one thing yet in Australia. That’s not acceptable.

R: People don’t know that, but that’s not acceptable that the largest producer of packaging waste in the world by a mile don’t recycle one chip bucket. So, once we actually put the onus on those people to recycle the stuff and to buy back the products.

R: And it’s not going to cost them. If I build these resource hubs, which I’m going to. I hope to have the first ones in Geelong this year. If I build those hubs, it’s not going to cost councils one cent for the infrastructure. At this stage, it’s going to cost 50% from government, from state governments and federal government. Why? Because state governments have got an enormous amount of money that they’ve collected from landfill levies.

R: You know, Victoria, they’ve got over a billion dollars sitting there to come up with solutions for waste reduction. And the federal government have got money for infrastructure spending. So, I want to get 75% percent of the 50% from state government and 25% in federal government.

R: And the balance of that will come from private investment because the payback for the investors in doing this and putting in this infrastructure is phenomenal. So, there’s no shortage of investors. The system works provided you’ve got a commitment for people to take back products that are made out of their waste. I’m sure you get it.

T: Well, I think so many of our guests have said that “it’s not recycling until you’ve actually bought something that’s been made out of recycled plastic.” And that goes for the biggest buyers, as you say, the government as such.

Food waste projects

T: I want to go back a little bit. Rob. We’ve talked so much about waste in general and specifically plastic waste. But, I know you also have a heart specifically around food waste and I know you have some other projects. When you started talking about the ability to recycle onsite, I was hoping that you could talk a little bit more about the Farmer’s Place and also it looks like you have some machinery that you’ve developed to do more in the food waste space.

R: Yes, the food waste recycling is a technology that was developed in Korea. It’s an onsite food composting machine. It uses exactly the same as traditional compost. In that is as microbes to basically eat the food. But they work very rapidly.

R:  They work very rapidly because they have enormous amount of these food eating microbes which are naturally occurring in the compost. We just put in millions or billions. And then you also use heat and agitation. It starts the composting process in 24 hours. So, after 24 hours, you’re left with only 10% by volume and weight of your food waste on site.

R: The advantage in that is that you’re now re-creating a resource that we can put back into farms and gardens and grow stuff again as I’ve spoken about before – the nutrients. But it’s also a really good way of reducing the amount of waste that you have to transport even now that it’s a resource because, a hundred kilos today is only 10 kilos tomorrow.

R: So, the more that we can process on site, the better the economics stack up. And also, of course, the better it is for the environment because you’re not using transport or as much transport, etc. You do use power, but we usually try and run them off solar power.

T: So how much waste does a business have to generate for this to make economic sense?

R: Well, we have different sizes of these units that we import, and we’re looking to manufacture them in Australia next year. So how much is the minimum? We have a small domestic unit. It will take two kilograms of waste at any one time. So, up to probably six kilograms of waste a day. So, it’s household waste right up to the biggest commercial machines we have, you can put in half a ton at any one time, and it will process over a ton a day.

R: They do have ones now in China that size of technology that will process 50 to 100 tons of day in a continuous process. They’re massive machines – local factories if you like.

The Farmer’s Place

R: So, what’s the Farmer’s Place? Do you want me to talk about that?

T: Yeah, I’d love to hear more about the Farmer’s Place.

R:  Okay. I got into farming about 12 years ago just as an interest. I’ve always been interested in farming and how food is created. And I thought that, it can’t be that hard to farm. So, I bought a farm down the surf coast in Victoria – beautiful part of the world.

R: I had young kids at the time – twelve years ago and thought it would be a great opportunity for them as well. So, we had that as a holiday farm, if you like. And then we moved down there and lived for two years because we loved it so much as a project.

R: Why I’m telling you this story is that it created a real interest for me into farming and particularly around soil and soil nutrition. And that happened by a bit of a disaster, really, because thinking I know everything there is to know about farming – the first year was a disaster.

R: And I bought a 167 pregnant ewes for producing lambs. And that first year, I had a humanitarian crisis on my hands basically. The ewes suddenly started falling over and lambs were being born underweight or dead. Ewes were dying and all this sort of stuff.

R: I could not work out what was going on. So, I brought in a whole lot of experts, people who did know about farming. And it was a baptism of fire, really. I learned very quickly that everything that grows gets its nutrients or nutrition out of the soil. And I found that about 20 years before I bought my farm, they’d sold off all the topsoil off the farm for urbanisation basically for putting in gardens and parks and so on in new housing developments.

R: So, the soil had no nutrition in it. I’ve spent the last 10 years basically putting nutrition back into the soil. And now I’ve got magnificent pastures. But as I say, it also created a real interest for me of this which is the ultimate closed loop.

R: Because the tomato that you don’t eat or the lettuce leaves that you cut off the outside, you put back into the soil, that you then grow the next lettuce from when your tomatoes or whatever, because they getting all the nutrients out of the soil. Nutrients being all the trace elements that the living organisms need – copper, zinc, phosphorous, calcium, and then all of the minerals and vitamins as well.

R: All of that comes from soil and all of that comes from organic matter that is basically going back into the soil. So that’s when we got into composting in a big way because I wanted to get as much compost as I could to put back into the soil rather than be using artificial fertilisers.

R: So four years ago, I bought another property not far from my farm – a much smaller farm that was 39 acres that was on the main road – the start of the Great Ocean Road, which is a big tourist road. It has 7500 cars a day going past it.

R: I wanted to be able to demonstrate to people how I suppose the whole. Basis around sustainability, particularly in food production. So we wanted to demonstrate how food is grown, how it’s transport, how it’s packaged, how we cook within seasons, how we use local food, all of those sorts of things – but also how we handle waste.

R: So, I set up a market and a cafe restaurant there which would use all of the produce from either product that we would grow on the farm or from the local producers. Because there’s a lot of local producers in that area that make some fantastic produce but can’t sell it because they don’t have scale.

R: I wanted to be able to demonstrate that. We built a whole market restaurant out of recycled materials with recycled shipping containers and corrugated iron from a school that had been replaced. And on our roof, (we put) recycled timbers and repurposed all the windows and so on. It was a fantastic result, and we still have it.

R: I’ve got another cafe proprietor in there now doing the same thing that actually knows more about running cafes than I do. So, a bit like the farming, I tend to get into these things thinking that I know what I’m doing when I really don’t.

T: Well, I don’t know how you have time for everything. I also understand you’re on a few boards, including for the Sydney Swans, which especially for those local to me – the Canberra crowd, would be very much a fan.

Future Plans

T: But I reckon that even despite all the things that you have done and things that are still going on, you still have some future plans in front of us.  You’ve talked about a couple already, but just wanted to see if there was anything else you wanted to share with our audience about plans for the future?

R: Well, I really want to get the circular economy up and running as a main stream. I’ve touched on those plans, and that’s going to happen. But plastics is one of the areas that I’m really interested in. I’m interested in it because it’s like coffee cups were. It’s now the poor cousin, and we turn on things. Plastics have been a fantastic commodity for us for decades, and now all we hear about is, “We’ve got to get rid of plastics. We’ve got to get rid of single-use plastics. Let’s ban them.”

R: And we’re very good as a global community when something gets hard to say, “Let’s ban it.” In reality, it’s never going to happen. What I’m saying is:

How about instead of banning single-use plastics, let’s not make them single use. Let’s use them again? Let’s use them as a resource. Plastics are nothing to be scared of. Plastics are predominantly just chains of hydrocarbons, which is carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It’s what people do with them that’s causing the problem. So, let’s not do that. Let’s stop them going into the oceans in the first place. Let’s stop them going into rivers and waterways and burying them in landfill.

R: I saw this on War on Waste. We have buried five billion tons of plastic in Australia since we started. Five billion tons. Imagine the amount of resource that’s just sitting underground that can’t be used. I can see a day where we’re going to go in and mine that plastic and make stuff out of it again.

R:  So, plans for the future – to really try and get this circular economy up and running and particularly around the two big areas for me: food waste and plastics.

Advice for listeners

T:  Rob, do you have any advice or requests for our listeners?

R: Yeah, I think that if people, and I noticed on most of your podcast that people are saying this, but my advice is, “Don’t give up.”

R:  People are giving up. Don’t give up on this. What can you do as an individual? You can make sure that your product is recycled. You can make sure your food waste is turned into compost. You can do that yourself if you want to. Or you can lobby your own communities, your own councils, etc to make sure that food waste is not going to landfill.

And you can do exactly the same with plastics. Be prepared to sort your product and make sure that you consume products that are made out of recycled material and ask people for it. Ask retailers. When you go into a takeaway food restaurant, ask them why they don’t recycle. Ask them if they can make stuff out of recycled material. And if they say they can’t. Then consumers can tell them, “Well, we know you can.”

R:  The power of the consumer is big. And I’ve had consumers say to me a lot of late, Tammy.  “Look, Rob, I don’t want you introducing any more bins. We’re talking about introducing a glass bin now. That’s ridiculous.”

R: I’m saying, “Why is it ridiculous?

R: “Well, because why should I have to sort out my glass? Why shouldn’t you do it?”

R: I’m saying, “Because it’s your glass. That’s why. It’s your glass, not mine. It’s yours. If you want it to just go to landfill, put it all in the same bin. But if you want us to actually use that glass to make back into products again, then keep it separate. That’s why it’s not economical. That’s why it’s not happening at the moment – because you as a consumer are not doing the right thing.”

R: So, don’t complain to me about how many bins. I’d be happy if they made people have 20 bins.

T: Well, there’s certainly communities around the world that do, and they’re probably the highest recyclers out of everyone in terms of turning it into something useful.

T: I love the last part of your advice to go ask your favourite grocer or business to provide products out of recycled plastic and to recycle themselves. So, I love that piece of advice. Thanks for sharing that.

How to find out more about Closed Loop

T: If anybody wants to know more about the various programs that you have or some of the machines and such that we’ve talked about today, where is the best place to find that?

R: Well, on our website, We have all the information there, but we also have the opportunity for people to ask us questions, to make inquiries about in a setting up a coffee cup recycling program in their office, in their local school, whatever, setting up a composting collection program, where to get compost machines, if that’s the way you want to go. All of this stuff that we’ve talked about today is on our website in one way or another. And if it’s not, then people are certainly welcome to contact us. We’ll get straight back to you.

Final Words

T: Rob, thank you so much for your time today. I feel like I could have spent another hour with you and still not asked enough questions to really understand everything you’re involved in right now.

T: You’ve had a lifetime of trying to deal with waste. And what’s unique about your story, I think, is the fact that you’ve been able to become a collaborator. You’ve found all the people that do the various different things, and you’ve used all of their strengths and knowledge to solve some of these huge problems starting way back to fairs and the 2000 Olympics to where we are today, where people actually care more about this on a daily basis than they have ever.

T: And now it seems like you’re being timely, but you’ve obviously been involved in this for much longer than most. And thank you for the work that you’re doing and continue to do, because we can’t possibly deal with this plastic crisis without people and businesses like what you have now.

R: Thanks so much, Tammy. And thank you as well, for the spotlight that you’re turning onto this issue.

R: I think passion is what drives us in everything.  I always say to people, “If you don’t love what you do, don’t do it because we are not here for long enough to be doing stuff that we don’t love.”

R:  And, you know, this is a very, very important issue for us – the issue of sustaining our planet for future generations. And it’s easy. And I don’t understand why people are so scared of it.

R: I often say to people when they’re talking about climate change is a myth, etc., I say, “Well, why is that? Why are worried about it?”

R: “Well, we’re worried about it because of jobs – folks in the mining industry or whatever.”

R:  And as I always say to them, “You know what? Solar panels don’t fall out of the sky and land on people’s roofs and connect themselves to the grid. There’s a massive industry out there.”

R: So, maintain the passion, and I’m sure we can all get there.

T: Great final words. Cheers, Rob.

David Hodge

David Hodge of Plastic Forests: dry cleaning plastic waste

In this two-part series, I’m chatting with David Hodge, the Managing director of Plastic Forests based in Albury, Australia. David entered the plastic recycling business about ten years ago and his business created the first ever commercial process for cleaning contamination from recycled plastic films without water. 

Today, the company is truly a circular recycler of industrial, agricultural and even consumer plastic waste, and we’ll explore how David and his team got here. 

I hope you enjoy this two part episode of Plastics Revolution with David Hodge of Plastic Forests.

Companies, Organisations and Products Mentioned in this Podcast:

Plastic Forests
Plastic Police
Drummuster Program
CSR Building Products


Hosted by Tammy Ven Dange
Produced by Jonny Puskas
Theme Music by Joseph McDade
All Rights Reserved 2019

Product Update – February 2020

Plastics Forests launches its recycled plastic Air Con Mounting Blocks, made from 100% recycled plastic including consumer waste from REDcycle and Simply Cups programs.

David Hodge Update 5 – 02 – 20 by Tammy Ven Dange

CEO @ The Refoundry – helping Mother Nature by making great products to reduce plastic waste | Host of Plastics Revolution podcast | Paddler of Boats

Full Transcript of Original Interview

This transcript has been modified for clarity.


T: Tammy Ven Dange, Host
D: David Hodge, Managing Director of Plastic Forests


T: David, welcome to the show.

D: Thank you very much for your time today. I’m looking forward to it.

T: So, tell me more about Plastic Forests.

D:  Plastic Forests started quite some time ago, like all overnight successes. It probably started more than 10 years ago when there was really two groups experimenting and trying to find ways to recycle contaminated plastic films. And the two groups met and formed Plastic Forests.

D: And so we began commissioning the factory in 2011 after really experimenting at a lab scale and then in a preproduction scale. The technologies that we thought would work in dry cleaning, contaminated plastic films or soft flexible films and predominately the early days were spent with agricultural films and also post consumer films.

D: And from there, it was really just running into problem after problem. All the unknowns, complete failures for quite a number of years of what we thought would work on an industrial level just failed miserably. And then a number of the original people that were involved sort of moved on to other things because the innovation road is one that is not for the faint hearted.

D: I liked it when I heard Rupert Murdoch interviewed during the global financial crisis. And the reporter asked Rupert Murdoch, “How would you define success?” And he said that will be easy. He said, “It would be the last man standing.”

D:  And really, that is in most journeys. So we persisted with the dry cleaning technology. And, it took quite some time. And in many, many millions of dollars later to have a stable, workable system where, in essence, what we’re taking is really big pieces of plastic. And some of the sizes of the plastic can be very large plastic bags where you put like a double bed in – a very, very large, two meters by two meters type sized plastic bags or even larger.

D: Again, grain bags. Grain bags – that’s a plastic bag that weighs 200 kilos, almost 500 pounds, and getting that into a small five cent piece, nickel-sized piece of plastic that you could then clean effectively on both sides and move it through multiple machines going from a big piece of plastic to a small piece of plastic and decontaminating it.

D: So, it moves pieces of plastic around at about 19,000 to 20,000 pieces per second from one machine to the next machine. And hence that was a lot of the very early problems –  being able to move from one machine to the other effectively. Where traditionally people would whitewash plastic, and it’s fairly easy to move a trough of water containing plastic in it. It’s a lot harder to move plastic by air.

What are Plastic Films?

T: Let’s break this down a little bit for our listeners who may not be so familiar with the plastic manufacturing process. Now, when you talk about film, you did mention some examples of the kind of film that you work with. So, we’ve spoken about the bags that a mattress may be in. We’ve also talked about a grain bag, which is more industrial, but very heavy. Are there other types of products that plastic film is used for?

D: Most definitely. People in the house – so that the post-consumer film, which actually deals with an individual would be everything in your kitchen. So when if you think about it, you’re going to make yourself a sandwich, the bread bag is a plastic bag. If you then go and get some sliced ham, that’s in another plastic bag. If you then go get muesli (granola) bar, that’s in a plastic bag. If you have some crisps or chips, that’s in a plastic bag, a foil lined plastic bag. So, all those types of plastics, they’re called soft plastics or flexible plastics. And that’s at the consumer level what they would use in the house.

D:  Then at a business level, we would see it wrapping pallets. So, on trucks that contain cardboard boxes that were being forked on and off a truck. They use a lot of plastic shrink wrap – stretch wrap to stabilise the transport of pallets on trucks.

D: And then you’ve got plastic that’s used in food manufacturing. And again, lots of plastic bags that contain food to keep it safe so that it comes in contact with a surface which doesn’t contain any contamination at all, like in the chicken factory, for example.

Making Plastic Forests Products

T: So you deal with both industrial and consumer good, soft plastics basically. And then you’re processing them to some other product? Is that right?

D: Yeah. Where a vertically integrated business so we can take material that’s highly contaminated and then decontaminate it, clean it, and then we can either turn it into resin which I think it’s also referred to as noodles overseas – small chickpea like pieces of plastic.  That’s generally the currency of the plastics industry.

Recycled Plastic Resin
Recycled Plastic Resin by Plastic Forests

D: That’s what you need to put in an extruder. An extruder is designed to melt that plastic and squeeze it through and to make various products, whether it’s a case for your iPhone or whether it’s another plastic bag or whether it’s a shampoo bottle. That all starts off as resin and then gets melted down into the object. So, we’re able to make the resin. Then what we’re also able to do is make a range of finished products.

D: We have a number of different production lines that do that, and we make a number of different products. We started off making sheet products or flat-based products, products like garden edging that were, say, three millimetres thick and then all the way through to underground electrical cable cover, which is a heavy plastic covering. It’s about six millimetres thick. I don’t know what that is in inches, do you?

T: It’s small.

D:  A quarter of an inch, something like that for our imperial listeners. And so that goes over the top of high value underground assets, predominately high voltage electricity that’s buried underground in conduits that might be buried 2 meters or 6 feet under the ground.

D: And then, 600 millimetres or two feet above that, there would be this heavy protection layer so that in five or 20 years time, if somebody was coming along with an excavator or a backhoe and they were then digging to put it into another channel or pipe, that they wouldn’t go straight into the high voltage of electricity cables and obviously kill themselves and then cause potential massive danger to other people around them.

Contamination in Plastic Films

T: When you’re talking about the usage of these basically waste materials, I think a lot of people are not aware of how difficult it is to actually prepare soft plastic for reuse and you mentioned contaminants before. Can you talk about some of the contaminants that you might see in the products or I guess it’s basically plastic rubbish that you receive from various entities?

D: Yeah, it is. We take on board various sources. Up until the last 12 months, we would generally focussed on what we call large mono streams. So, a large mono stream might be, say, in the agricultural sector what they call silage on, which is a very thin plastic. It’s only about 10 10 microns think. It’s very, very thin, and they use that to wrap hay bales.

D: And it’s generally that light green, big bales that you see if you’re driving along a country road and you look into a farmer’s paddock. You see these big green bales that are about 3 or 4 feet in diameter. And that particular film contains things like rocks and obviously hay and seeds. And, sometimes it can contain high contamination like pieces of granite rock. Or it might have a piece of steel implements or the like.


D: So, we’ve got to decontaminate that, and then we are left with a pure almost mono stream. So that’s all but the LLDPE linear low density polyethylene. And so that’s one particular stream.

D: Another stream of contamination would be like bread bags. So, we work with a bread manufacturer and all the unsold white bread comes back to the factory, and then from there they debag it. The plastic bags are cut off by automatic machinery on a conveyor belt and all those plastic bags are then bailed up and then sent to our plant.

D: So, the contamination that we get there is breadcrumbs, bread tags and highly printed plastic film. It’s got a lot of ink on a bread bag advertising whatever bread it is. So, it’s not generally contaminants, but a lot of ink. That makes a very low-quality plastic resin because of the high ink flow on it, but that sits as the types of contaminates that we’re dealing with there is removing the bread, removing the tags.

D:  Then there’s also the wet customers. So, we have done a number – like McDonald’s supplies whether it be beef, chicken, pork. And so when that when those bales come to us, they generally have a lot of moisture. They might have some fat residues, blood residue, meat residue that’s involved with a plastic film. So what we’re doing then is we’re obviously removing that contamination. And then again, we’re left with a very large mono strain. In that case of LDPE, this low-density polyethylene. And so we can string stream that up.

The Challenge with Household Plastic Films

D: Then recently in the last twelve months, we’ve been working with a number of groups to receive plastic films that have come from household. They’re generally a lot of multilayered films. That we can’t process back into to resin to be then blown back into film or what have you. So, we use those products, and we introduce them and we mix them down and we blend them with other generally polyethylene plastics to make bigger, thicker things.

D: So we brought out a product called a little Mini Wheel Stop. It’s about a foot long. It’s 300 millimetres, about two inches high. It’s got a double-sided industrial adhesive tape. It’s a mixed waste plastic film product, which is we believe, one of the first ones that you can put inside your house and in your garage or your carport.

Mini Wheel Stop

D: You don’t need any tools. You don’t need any rock bolts or electric power tools to install it. You just peel off the double-sided industrial adhesive. You put it in the correct position. And when you drive your car into the garage, it’s just meant to be a little bump stop so you don’t hit the kids bikes in front of you or touch your car up against the wall of the garage.

D: It’s a nice, simple product, and it forms a practical purpose. It’s a good use of a waste stream. It’s up cycling it into something that’s going to create some value and last and not get burnt or turn into fuel or end up in landfill.

T:  Is that waste from Redcycle?

D: Yes. We work with the Redcycle program, and we also work with the Plastic Police program and they engage with us in a predominately consumer based films.

T: For those people that aren’t aware, here in Australia, we have a soft plastic program through a company called Redcycle, and they’ve partnered with at least two of the major grocery chains here in Australia. And they allow people to bring their soft plastic to those grocery stores, and then they collect them and then pass them on to people like David here to turn them into something amazing.

The Dry Cleaning Process for Plastics

T:  David, you just made that entire process sound amazingly simple. And I know that you have some unique technology, and we kind of went over it at the very, very beginning. But I think that for most people it’ll just go over their heads.

T: Let’s talk about the dry cleaning process that you use to clean up this contamination we just went through, because I know that’s really unique and it just sounds too simple when you’re just talking about it, but I reckon it’s probably pretty advanced.

D:  Yeah, we did start that a long time ago. And the reason why is that people weren’t recycling contaminated plastic films. So the plastic films that we were getting were predominantly post-production – edge trim from a company that’s actually making the plastic. So, it’s clean and it’s in a factory and it hasn’t been used. So that’s the post-production or it was post-industrial.

D: So again, it was clean in the sense that it had wrapped a pallet, and it was on a truck, and it might have a paper label on it. But the types of films we were looking at – this post-consumer and post-food production and post-agricultural production are highly contaminated. And what we realized was, is that if you’ve got 10 microns of plastic, you’ve got maybe 30 microns a contamination. So, you’ve actually got more contamination than you’ve got plastic.

D: And what would happen historically and the reason people wouldn’t recycle the “flexables” is because, through the wet-wash system, you would overload a wet-wash system. And there is just so much contamination. There is just so much material coming off that it was ineffective because then you had so much water then to remove from the plastic.

D: So plastic and water don’t go well together when you’re trying to make resin and you’ve actually got an end product. So we thought, well, what’s the water actually doing? The water is, in effect, carrying off or removing the contamination. So we thought, well, ask a better question, get a better answer. “Could we use air, heat, friction? A mechanical means to be able to do that effectively?” And that was the question, the journey that we’ve been on to do that effectively.

D: And we can in the majority of cases. There’s some plastic contaminated plastic film we can’t. For example, we’re working with a chicken manufacturer, and they had a honey soy syrup that they would put onto the chicken fillets, and then they would then sell that through a supermarket outlet – so very, very sticky and gluggy.

D: Our process didn’t work well for something like that, but it works extremely well for the bread bags, which is a dry contamination. It works extremely well with the agricultural because even though there’s moisture there – because the plastic films have been left outside in the paddocks, on the farms – it’s easy for us to deal with.

D:  So, yes, our journey does sort of sound simple if you say it quickly. But to do it in an industrial scale, what we do to have a plant, and depending again, the type of plastic.  Again “soft flexibles” are very hard to shear and size. So, taking a big piece of plastic and making them small pieces of plastic, what energy is required in that, what types of machines and shredders and granulators and the right combination of those machines.

D: And that’s taken a lot of trial and error. But there’s other machinery manufacturers in Europe that after 10 years, everybody will come up with something. They’re able to supply people with off-the-shelf, dry cleaning type systems. It’s just that we were a little bit earlier to the party, and we sort of built up our own system.

T:  David, it sounds still very complex in terms of what you’re doing. And it’s great to know that in Australia we have options now for soft plastics to be recycled properly.

Why Start a Waste to Product Company?

T: Let’s talk more about you, because as I’ve done tons of research overnight to try to find out more about you and the company itself. I was blown away with the amount of information and news articles and videos and things about the company, but there wasn’t that much information about you now.

T: There must be something in your background that made you passionate about waste because I could see that you’ve started at least one other waste company or “waste to product” company in the past. Tell us more about you in terms of why did you decide to go down this line of business?

D:  I suppose it all starts a little bit in your DNA in the sense that my father is Scottish. And so I think the Scots tend to be a pretty frugal nation or personality by nature. And in the early years, I suppose we weren’t rich. And so everything had to last a long way. So I sort of brought up on that “you eat everything that was put in front of you” and this sort of philosophy so you don’t waste things.

D:  So, I suppose later on in life – we live by the water here in Sydney, Australia. And, I find it upsetting if you go swimming and you come across plastic bags, or you go swimming and there’s a chip packet or a bottle that floats past you. So, I suppose even in early days, (I was) picking up pieces of plastic and putting them in my board shorts. And then when you come back to the beach, you put them in the garbage bin where they’re meant to be. They’re not meant to be in the ocean floating around.

D: So, I suppose that, and then back in 2004, I met Mike. And Mike was really passionate about recycling waste from a farm perspective. Michael’s from the bush…

T:  Who’s Mike?

D: Michael Wentworth. Mike’s absolutely keen in all the engineering side of things. He’s with me and with Plastic Forests. And he does a great job in doing the engineering. I’m not an engineer, and Mike’s not an engineer per say, but he’s a lot brighter than most of them. He comes from a mechanical background, and the way in which he thinks and looks and solves problems is brilliant.

D: So, we’re a good combination in that regard. Where we’ve very much got the same ideals and goals and drives, and we can communicate about them obviously the way the mechanics of it works. But we’ve got different strengths in the business, and I let Mike concentrate on his strengths and he let’s me concentrate on mine.

How did they fund Plastic Forests?

T: When you talk about the amount of innovation and development for this business, it sounds like it must have taken a while to get off the ground. I’m just wondering, how did you fund this company?

D:  Well, that’s me. And it’s been a lifetime of savings have been poured into it. And there are many millions of dollars have gone into it. We’ve been very fortunate where we’ve received co-funding from the New South Wales government Waste Less, Recycle More program. And that’s funding which has come from the collection of waste levy.

D: So here in Sydney, Australia, I think it’s around AU$134 per tonne that you have to pay if you’re sending product to landfill. And the New South Wales government collects I think around AU$700m – $900m a year. That then goes into the consolidated revenue, and a portion of that goes to run the Environmental Protection Agency, and also amounts are set aside for co-funding of infrastructure.

D: It’s a wonderful program. And by having a higher total dumping fee, that makes it more attractive for businesses to recycle. So for example, in America and many other countries around the world, they have these incredibly low landfill disposal costs, US$15 a tonne. And recycling can’t work with those economics.

D: If you look at Europe, they have very high landfill rates. They also have legislation where you just can’t take certain types of waste to landfill at all. So therefore, you are forced from a government perspective to recycle.

Eliminating the GST on Recycled Plastic Products

T: David, I was reading some of the articles that you’ve written or have commented on, and you also are proposing or maybe you’re just suggesting that government really think about this “Buy Australia” movement, which would help some of the problems that we’re having around the plastic industry.

T: You specifically spoke about not having a GST or our basic tax on any goods that are made here in Australia and suggested that would help some of the problems. Do you want to go into that? And then also think about any other policies that you think government might be able to help with the plastic waste issue here in Australia?

D:  Yeah, I believe the government’s the biggest business in town by definition that they sit across all the all the other businesses. And I did propose that if we made recycled products. This applies to any country in the world, because we’ve all got to deal with our own waste, because we can’t export waste to third world countries. We can’t be economic bullies on a global sphere.

D: And we sort of say, well, we’re going send a million tonnes of plastic to some country which doesn’t have their own infrastructure to deal with their own waste properly. I just don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think it’s reasonable. And in the end, if you’re in a schoolyard situation, you’d be called a bully for doing it.

D: I think the world has realised that now because of the closure of China to seven million tonnes of recyclables. And what we’re seeing is that the closure of Vietnam and Malaysia and Indonesia and all these other countries. There’s just so much waste. And I think what it’s done is just opened everybody’s eyes so quickly to the problem that there is no way, and we have to deal with it.

D:  So that’s a start obviously, but everybody’s got to look at reducing consumption of materials. They’ve got to look at using things which last more than once, and getting to  buy a more permanent solution.

D: Like when you go shopping here in Australia now, when you go to a supermarket, you’re not issued with a single-use plastic bag anymore. The supermarkets and grocery stores are incentivising you really or penalise you to bring your own bag again and again and again. If you do need a bag, well, then you’ve got to pay AU$0.15 to buy each bag.

D: And those bags generally are a more heavy duty, 35 micron plus plastic bag, which is designed to last. The next time you come shopping, you can use that that heavy-duty plastic bag over and over again rather than a 10 micron bag or an 8 micron bag that you would only use once.

D:  There are a range of incentives. Obviously making something GST free would be from a “Recycled Landfill Diverted” (or) “Recycled in Australia” type product that would assist enormously in selling those products to the consumers here in Australia. And that’s sort of avoiding doing things like putting tariffs.

D: Once you start putting a tariff on something – and in any great tariff war and things, saying that’s not going terribly well between America and China right now. So, I think we need to avoid that situation. I’ve had numerous conversations with politicians, and I think taking the GST off these types of products is going to be too hard, which is a little bit sad.

Proposed Tax Incentives to Buy Recycled Waste Products

D:  So, one of my other proposals that I’ve made to our politicians in this waste and environment space is – Australia has a tax-deductible scheme and a tax-incentive scheme for the film industry. So if you make a motion picture film in Australia, if you spend AU$100, there’s three tiers: you get either AU$116 or AU$130 or AU$140 as a tax deduction.

D: And we really need industrial solutions. So, if we have a look at the product mix that Plastic Forests does, we do consumer-based products because we want people to be engaged and filled with hope. We do industrial based products and we do infrastructure products.

D: So, one of the industrial products that we’re just releasing right now, it’s called industrial dunnage. A lot of people don’t know what dunnage is. It’s very hard to explain. So, a dunnage or a block or a pack spacer. And what this product is, is that if you make a sheet-based product – so if you make drywall or you might gyprock, they don’t traditionally put these on a timber pallet per say to be transported around. (Instead), they just put a block or this pack space in between the sheets of plasterboard or drywall and then a forklift can drive in and lift it up.

Industrial dunnage
Industrial dunnage

D: What we’ve done is, is that we’ve developed one of those that’s made from a waste plastic mixed films. It will last 10 times longer than then a tree. And they generally cut down pine trees for this, and they cut down billions of pine trees. I saw a figure the other day from the US, from Texas and a recycler there. Three to four billion trees a year go into packaging, transporting of other products.


D With our products, with this I-90 plastic dunnage looks like an I-beam that will last so long and is weather-proof which is really good. But when I go up to a publicly listed, building materials manufacturer in Australia and I say, “How many of these do you buy a year?” And they go, “Well, we buy 2 million of those.” And these are very big numbers. But the problem is that they’re buying timber straight out of the mill at the lowest price and plastic, by its nature is a lot more expensive than cheap timber.

Plastic Forests Recycled Plastic Dunnage
Plastic Forests Recycled Plastic Dunnage

D: So, we can be so efficient in our manufacturing, and I can have all these benefits. We can sit down from an economic point of view.

But what going to really help them bring it over the line is if that company – if they spend a $1m buying this product, then they get a $1.3m tax deduction. What it means is that they’re going to be able to afford buying our product because of the tax deduction. And then what happens is that the Australian Tax Office has a full record of what everybody’s doing.

Why Not Rank Companies According to What they Buy?

D:  Then we can create this new public ladder, so to speak, that the ATO, the Australian Tax Office, can produce every year – these are the Top 100, the Top 1000 Companies around Australia that are purchasing locally made, locally sourced, manufactured, recycled plastic products.  That whatever it was, plastic or whatever that was going to landfill has been diverted.

D: So, the beauty with that is, as we all know, if you’ve got the top 100 public companies, and you now have a new gold standard or matrix or a ladder, it gives the C-suite in these corporations something to aim for where they want to be better than their competitors or people can then start turning this into a competitive marketing advantage.

Rolling out Chief Sustainability Officers positions

D: I was at a circularity conference in Melbourne the other day, and Australia Post now has a C-suite position, which is a Chief Sustainability Officer is now sitting next to the Chief Information Officer (and) the Chief Financial Officer. So, Australia Post is taking that position that seriously now. And I would like to see that really rolled out. And we need that in all these very large publicly listed corporations. And this would be a great matrix that could be reported upon each year publicly.

T: I totally agree.

Government Procurement of Recycled Products

T: Have you seen much traction in government at all in terms of their own purchasing power?

D:  I have heard that, through a number of the other plastic recyclers that have products that more council-orientated.

T: Like Replas?

D:  Replas/Repeat Plastics in Melbourne. They do a great job. They make fantastic products. They’ve been (doing it) a long, long time. And their manufacturing processes is great, their products are great and their marketing is great. They really are a gold standard globally on how you manufacture recycled plastic products. And they’re doing incredibly well with the infrastructure and so are the other guys.

D: When I mean infrastructure, I mean infrastructure into council procurement. I think we need to see more of that at a state government level. But don’t forget, it’s also very hard because it’s not the government’s role or job to design new products.

D: That’s what Plastic Forest’s role is. That’s what Repeat Plastics (now Replas) role is. We’ve got to make the products. We’ve got to make sure they fit for purpose.  We’ve got to be able to produce them at the best economical or the lowest cost, because that’s what manufacturing is about. You want to produce a product fit for purpose at the lowest price. And that’s what really the industrial warfare is when you think about it.

D: If I can make my cars, faster, better, cheaper than you can and then I market them better – that’s the end point of it, I’ll have a better business. So, that’s what we’re trying to do as well. I mean, you can’t just live on green dollars and green welfare.

Big Stick or Carrot Policy Approach

D:. It is required and needed and pushed – and we’re talking about the levers of government. The government, like we’ve seen in Europe where they’ve sort of said if you don’t have recycled content packaging, we’re going to put a 30% tax on your product. So that’s a big stick approach.

D: So, governments can take either a big stick approach or they can be a carrot approach. So obviously, that tax deductibility that I was talking about – that’s a carrot approach as opposed to getting up there and mandating. But I think it’s not just government. I think product stewardship programs – there’s quite a number of those and they work well.

Stewardship Programs

D: We’ve got here in Australia the container deposit system in many states. And I think South Australia was the first state in the world 40 odd years ago that put (I think) 10 cents on a bottle of soda or a bottle of soft drink, and when you returned it, you got a 10 cent rebate for it. So, we’re seeing that sort of roll out across Australia, and that works well.

D:  We see it with the Drummuster Program, which is an agricultural program where the suppliers of agricultural chemicals got together and formed a group and they all contribute X cents per litre. And once the farmers buy the chemicals or the washing liquids and things that they would use on their farms, that they’re taken back to a collection point where they’ve already been rinsed. The collection point is paid to manage it. The collector come, he’s paid to manage it, and then the recycler is given a rebate fee to recycle it. So, all those systems work when it’s paid for upfront.

D: We’ve got quite a number of systems right now where what happens is that the farmers are left with 10 tonnes of plastic films. There’s no infrastructure built. There’s no where to take it. There’s no way to process it. And so because there’s no economic value in it. So we’ve just got to make sure that these stewardship programs are designed well.

D: We’ve got a mandatory system in Australia with e-waste and then we have a battery program.

There’s quite a number of stewardship programs and they all work. And I think we need to have that with flexible films as well.

What’s feedstock waste does Plastic Forests use today?

T: For your own business, David. What percentage of the feedstock waste that you bring into your company to make other things is from industrial versus consumer or even agriculture for that matter?

D:  Well, it’s been changing. It was predominantly food manufacturers and agriculture. Now we’re seeing more post-industrial agriculture. And I suppose the fastest growing segment is the consumer segment working with the Redcycle and others to bring in these consumer plastics.

D:  And what Plastic Forests is really doing is back ending those programs and partnering with those programs where they’re running collections. They’re running training. They’re running that consumer engagement, and Plastic Forests’ role is to take those plastics and to turn them into usable upcycled products.

What is Plastic Forests making?

T:  And so on the other side of the supply chain, what percentage of your own products are either feedstock pellets or industrial type products or for the end user consumer?

D:  We’ve taken a real strategic change about 12 months ago, and that was because with Operation National Sword from China and the closing of China, it created a lot of upheaval in the recycling space. It created a lot of upheaval in the plastics industry and a lot of people were vertically integrated.

D: So, we really took a move away from just making basic resin feedstock. It’s a commodity item. It’s just like buying petrol or gasoline. When you drive down the road, you generally go into the garage which has got the least cost petrol. And that’s what happens with resin.

D: And so with Asia being on Australia’s doorstep, they have much lower energy costs. They’re probably 70% lower than Australia, much lower labour costs – probably 80% less in Australia. And then you’re looking at making a commodity item. So, we decided not to do that.

D: So, we were making resin. We still do a little bit. The absolute majority of it we use ourselves now, and we’ve moved into that. And my aim would be 100% end product manufacturer now because that’s the place where you can create the most value, because every time you’re touching it, you’re upcycling it from resin into garden edging, garden pegs or root barrier or the Mini Wheel Stop.

D:  All sorts of products that we’re developing up for consumer engagement allows us to create more margin, and that margin is what we need in a high cost manufacturing environment that Australia is.

T: Yeah, I looked at that myself for my own products, and I realised that if I was going to make any kind of product, how much larger the margin needed to be to justify the cost of manufacturing here in Australia as well as using recycled plastics. So, I totally understand where you’re coming from.

Future Plans

T: Let’s talk about the future a little bit. What kind of plans do you have in progress or perhaps things you might want to give us some sort of a hint about? What are the plans for a Plastic Forests?

D:  What we’re trying to do is we’ve built this enormous plant. We call it a super site. It’s on five acres – around 20,000 square meters with about 6,500 square metres of buildings with a lot of high voltage power there. It was a big industrial factory back in the 1970s. So, one of the main buildings is quite old. But, it’s just a big shed for us to do what we want to do in it.

D: So, we’ve got a number of production lines. We’ve got a drycleaning line. We’ve got one sort of resin manufacturing line. We’ve got another project to put another one in. We got one we call Our Little Sheet Line, which is what we’ve been using since 2014.

D: And then we’re very fortunate again with the help of government assistance to Plastics Forests. We put a project together with the New South Wales EPA, and we’ve got a very large sheet line. This came out of (what) was supplying plastic fuel tanks to the Ford Corporation in Melbourne, but the motor industry in Australia shut down in 2017 due to obviously the high cost of manufacturing that we have here in Australia.

D: And we’re very fortunate that the company that owned that very large production line  – so sits on around 600 odd square metres. It’s a big bit of equipment and it took eight, big double trucks to bring from Melbourne up to Albury. So the factory is located on the east coast of Australia in between Sydney and Melbourne on the major transport route. And so that line’s been commissioned up and that will make a range of larger, thicker (products). It’s a multilayered machine, so it can make very complex high value plastic sheeting. So we plan to bring that on line next year.

D: Then that will make Marine ply(wood) substitutes. So, rather than using timber for marine ply, it will do the underground electric cable cover and make a range of other sheet products, hoarding products. Hoarding is what goes around a building. So, we’ve got that and also more consumer engagement products. It is what we want to work on because we do like that consumer engagement.

It’s not recycled until it’s made into another product

D: There’s a lot of people feeling very hopeless. And if you have a look at the essence of recycling, we feel pretty guilty in our modern age, and we feel some form of relief of that guilt when we put it in a recycling bin and wheel that recycling bin out each week. And we think, “Well, at least that’s going for some good.”

D: And I think where people become very disillusioned recently is that it’s taken a generation to train everybody to do that (recycling). And that’s what we must do. But we’ve got to support that through.  And whilst economically it’s been the best thing to export it to another country which can process it cheaper. Now that we can’t export it away, we realise that, “Hey, look, we all want to do this. We all want to recycle.”  Ninety percentage plus of population wants to recycle.

D: We now need to have that infrastructure here locally. And most importantly, we’ve got to buy recycled content products. If we don’t buy it – when you talk about my plans for Plastic Forests, we can have the biggest and best, the shiniest factory.

We can have millions of dollars worth of equipment, but if nobody buys what we make because it might be 5% more, 10% more, whatever the price is from whatever product range it is, than obviously we won’t be in business.

Keep Plastic as Plastic

D: That’s the hard, hard cold fact why the waste industry should have a look at them – why they’re not spending tens of millions of dollars building recycling plants in Australia. While some of these waste companies have plastic recycling plants in Europe and other countries. They’re not building any of those in Australia. They’re really on this pathway and this commitment of waste to energy.

D: And I’m pretty fearful that the amount of push in the flow from the industry for easy solutions will sort of interrupt the waste hierarchy where we’re all trying to obviously reduce, reuse, but then recycle and repurpose. I think that there’s going to be a fairly strong push into the waste to energy space as the quick fix, and I hope that doesn’t happen.

D: But I’m sort of seeing signs that that’s what is happening. And I think we need to make sure that there is enough legislation to protect the plastics and to protect these other materials from ending up in the fire. Because, look, thermal recovery, waste to energy – it has a place. But it’s the last stop. It’s not the first stop for convenience and economics. It should be made the last stop.

T:  Why do you think it should be the last stop?

D: That should be the last stop? Because, if you have a look at it – just take plastics for example. That’s what we’re experts in. You’re talking about a billion dollars plus to make a plastics cracker like Shell’s building one in America I think up in Pennsylvania right now. And these are enormous. It’s going to make 1.6 million tons of new virgin plastic. It costs a lot of money to make plastic.

D: If you look at virgin plastic, it’s a couple of thousand dollars a ton. And, we might then process it into a plastic bag, and then it comes $4000 a metric ton equivalent. And then:

We use it for five or 10 or 20 minutes or a week in wrapping up a piece of food. So, you’ve now got an item which has gone from $4000 dollars worth of value to minus $300 dollars worth of value, and it’s only because it’s in the wrong place.

D: So what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to make sure that the resource is not a misallocated resource. It’s still a resource. We paid for it. And just because we’re finished with it doesn’t mean it’s lost its value.

D: And so what we’re trying to do, and again at it’s core at Plastic Forest – how do we repurpose it? How do we bring that value back? That initial high value?  Plastics is enormously convenient. It’s an enormously wonderful product. We can’t live in our 21st century without it. It’s in our iPhone. It’s in our toothbrush. It’s in our cars. Plastic is not going away. So therefore, what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to look at how we handle it responsibly.

D: I say to people all the time,

Just imagine if the Romans had invented plastic. And what would the place look like now two thousand years later with the amount of irresponsible (behaviour). We’ve been irresponsible really within one generation by what we’ve done.

T: Yes.

D: So really, the best thing that China has done for the globe has given everybody a big “eyes wide open” event where we’ve gone, “Hold on a minute. We just can’t send it away. We can’t.”

D: And the petroleum industry really needs to take a long, hard look at the economics of producing so much plastic. The problem we’ve got right now is that we’ve got a finite resource – oil. We’re not rediscovering or replacing it. I believe we’ve reached peak oil where we’re not finding anymore, producing anymore of it.

D: And with America’s been on this fracking frenzy for 10 years. They’ve spent over US$180 billion. The issue that we’ve got today in the US is that a barrel of oil’s US$50 or US$60 US dollars, but it costs US$90 to US$150 to frack a barrel of oil. So therefore, the only way that the petroleum companies can recover or create any value to keep the economics of it going is to build these massive virgin plastic factories and just keep producing this.

D: Like the world uses around 300 million tons of plastic every year. And right now, there’s another 140 million tons of virgin plastic factories being built. So, there’s a 40% percent increase in our plastic production. And really, we should be winding it all back. We should be saying this is a limited resource. We’re not going to keep finding oil wells. They’re running out of head pressure, which means they’re running out of oil under the ground.

D: We’ve got all this multi directional drilling and this is all really just contributing to our attitude as people on the planet that we’ve been living a limitless life in a world that’s got limited resources. And that equation just does not add up once everything’s gone in that magical hole in the ground. There’s nothing left in that magical hole anymore, and yet, we’re going to keep living. And it’s sort of like, we’ve got our children and our children’s children and really what we’re doing is we’re stealing from the people we love most, which is our children.

D: If you think what we do as parents and how much energy we put into our kids, and we’re putting all this energy and all this care and all this love and attention into them, but we’re destroying where they’re going to live. And that is why we’ve all got to stop. And we’re all going to pause, and we’ve all got to participate.

 It’s not about being green and being a tree hugger. It’s about being responsible. We can all do that, and we can all take tiny steps, big steps, corporate steps, government steps. We’ve all got to be going the right way because we’re all sort of live on this beautiful blue green planet. And there is no Planet B.

T:  David, based on what you just said there, I completely agree with that, and I think most people do agree about the challenges that we do have in plastic. I like your mission statement where you said your goal is to “keep plastic as plastic at its highest level, and in the process make the world a better place.” It is probably a good way to summarise what you just said.

Impact – Real Circular Space

T: I’m wondering with Plastic Forests, what kind of impact would you like to see with the company?

D: I’d like to see products that we make reachable to everybody. We’re talking with a number of national retailers now. I would like to see them engaged with the products that we’re making so that the people can feel a sense of hope and purpose and the reality is that they can. And I think the large corporates can use that as part of their communications.

D: So, for the retailers, that would be great. We’re working with a number of very large Australian public companies. And what we’re doing, and what we’re talking and advising them and helping them with this is to create a sustainable competitive marketing advantage by being the first one into the space to look at the circularity.

D: One of their building materials companies we’re working with is CSR Building Materials, and they have a division called Monier, and Monier make roof tiles. They’re concrete roof tiles and terracotta roof tiles. And once they’re made at the factory, they then have a large plastic heat-shrink hood to put on them. They go out to the building site and then obviously they’re putting the roof on, and at the end of it there’s these very large plastic bags. And if you’ve ordered 20 pallets, there these 20 large plastic bags.

D: So what CSR Monier are is doing there, is that they’re taking those plastic bags back. They’re baling up those plastic bags, and then they come into Plastic Forests. Then, we’re cleaning them and we’re turning them back into this plastic donnage – plastic pack spacers that we’re making. And then CSR is purchasing that, and it’s going back into other building material divisions and replacing virgin timber. So, this is a wonderful example of circularity.

D: What I want is for them to step forward in building materials space and get into it, and to be seen as doing the right thing. And it’s one of those things that it’s a self-perpetuating thing that if people sort of say, “Well. my customers are asking for it.”

D: Actually that’s the way it started with Monier. The customers started asking for it. They said, “Look, you’re sending us these wonderful building material products, but it’s coming with all this packaging.” And they said, “Well, we can’t reduce packaging, otherwise the product will get damaged. But what we’ll do is we’ll come pick up our packaging. We will offer you that as a value-added service.” And that engagement – that’s fantastic.

D: We’re really trying to be an enabler and obviously offer advice. I mean, it’s not CSR’s job to be a plastic recycler. They’ve got to come to us. It’s not their job to think of products, but we can help them with ways in which to manage the collections, what type of equipment they need. And then moving forward, assisting them with their corporate sustainable goals. What other areas, what other divisions, where can we help? What else can we make this engagement? And that’s what I find enormously exciting.

D: So I see Plastic Forests moving into what I call the real circular space. I’ve got another saying, and that is that we’re professional doers not professional talkers. There are so many people talking about green this and green that and recycle this and circularity that.

The way we’re doing it, we’re real in what we’re producing, and that’s fun and fulfilling. And it’s creates an enormous amount of reward for us personally. And that’s what motivates us all to do it.

Message for our Listeners

T: Absolutely. Do you have anything you want to say to our listeners?

D: I think the big thing there is that,

Keep Recycling. Reduce the amount – when you go to the shops. Have a look at what you are actually buying because your dollars speak volumes.

D: If there were two products on the shelf and one was made from recycled and one was made from virgin material. And if the retailer only saw the one with recycled content selling and the other one just sat on the shelf – the retailer will send the message back to that producer and that producer won’t be making it.  

The dollars we spend is really the how we vote.

D: So I would say to you or to everybody to make sure they reduce first, look where they spend and actively look at what you can purchase that’s made out of recycled materials. I say that again, if we’re producing in Australia- 103 kilos. So that’s  almost 240 pounds a year of plastic per person.

D: So the question – have I bought 100 kilos this year of recycled plastic products? I’ve got a household with five in my house here. That’s 500 kilos.  So that’s 1100 pounds of plastic. Am I buying 1100 pounds of recycled plastic products a year? The answer to that is no, I’m not. And so if I’m not, very few other people are as well. And so, we’ve got to actively look at ways.

D: And that’s why the government is so important with the infrastructure. But as individuals, don’t leave it up to the government. The government there – they’ve got to do their bit and they’re trying hard. And we’ve got to put pressure on government as individuals for them to behave and to do our wishes.

D: They’re public servants – the politicians have been elected by us. They’re in power there to represent us. So, we’ve got to make sure we give them the message of what we want, not what they want. Or sometimes, unfortunately, the world works in the best interests of the dollar and not necessarily of the people.

D: But I think the people really need to stay on the politicians for them to continue to help and assist the industry and to actively engage and not give up hope to move forward and doing the best we can as individuals.

T: So, keep recycling and when there is a recycled product option – to consider that first.

D:  Absolutely. And this sort of thing might be a little bit extra, but it’s worth it because if we if we don’t – the alternative is terrible.  Sydney’s facing a problem where all of our landfills are filling up. They’ve all got a limited life of only X number of years left.

D: I mean, one of the world’s biggest cities, Mexico City, many years ago ran out of landfill. There were 20 million people or plus living in Mexico City, and they were trucking their waste there – 5000 trucks a day travelling 100 miles (160 kilometres) to take their waste out of Mexico City.

D: And so, again, we have to pause and think, “Why are we doing what we’re doing? Why are we buying what we’re buying? Do we really need that new thing? Can we buy a secondhand thing?” I think it leads into this whole area that:

Manufactures historically have made our consumables only last for a short period of time so that we would then go buy another one in one year or two or three years. The same with fashion.

D: Now, we’ve got to have the latest fashion, and we’ve got to keep changing fashion all the time. I think we’ve just got to slow that down a bit and look at the value and look at what our parents or grandparents did. They just didn’t go. They bought one refrigerator, and they had their refrigerator for life. They didn’t consume as much. And I think that in this modern age, we’ve been led to believe that if we consume and consume and consume, that will then be happy. And I think we’re finding out the reality is that’s not the case.

How to reach David and Plastics Forests

T:  David, last question. How could people reach you and Plastic Forests if they want to know more about your company and even about you?

D: Well, thank you for that. If they want to know a little bit more about me from a professional point of view, I’m on LinkedIn and I’m pretty active on Linkedin. And if I find some interesting articles, I don’t over bomb people on that. I’ll post them there.

D: If it’s consumers, we’ve got a website which is, and we’ve got an online shop there as well. So, if people want to buy recycled products, they can go there. Or we’ve got other pages. They have information in relation to the types of plastics that we recycle. There’s a whole range of information there online.

T: Do you do any private label work for other businesses?

D: No, we don’t. But if somebody approaches us with a particular product that they would like manufactured, we would engage in a conversation.

T: Okay. So, I will put all those contact details into the show notes so people can find you and find Plastic Forests.

T: David, thank you so much for your passion around waste management, waste reduction, making sure plastic retains as a valuable resource as it is, but used in a higher capacity rather than turned into landfill or perhaps energy. Thank you for the work that you’re doing with governments to talk about policy changes and things that they can do to enable a better recycling process. Thank you for taking waste that really, very few manufacturers will take and can process – to turn it into something valuable. So, we really appreciate the work you’re doing for our community and in our environment too.

D: Thank you very much for your time today. And we will “keep on keeping on,” as they say. Thank you.