Samantha Cross of Plastic Police:

Passion for recycling soft plastic

In this episode of the Plastics Revolution podcast, I chat with Samantha Cross of Plastic Police and Cross Connections Consulting.

Samantha spent most of her career helping companies reduce their waste as an employee of Brambles.  Then a few years ago, a combination of circumstances led her to start her own consulting company and a passion project she called Plastic Police to tackle soft plastic waste specifically.

What started as a shipping container and one school has now evolved to a fully tested model with a scalable blueprint for businesses and organisations anywhere.

We hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Samantha Cross of Plastic Police.


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

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 1.46 | First job as a truck driver
  • 3.13 | Learning about the circular economy as an employee at Brambles
  • 7.15 | Changing career paths
  • 8.39 | Why focus on plastic?
  • 10.46 | The origins of Plastic Police, a passion project
  • 16.53 | More than a collection program
  • 19.53 | How to turn this passion project into something sustainable
  • 33.15 | The new Plastic Police Blueprint
  • 37.28 | How to find out more about Plastic Police and its new Blueprint

Quotes from Samantha Cross in this episode:

“I probably have been practising circular economy principles since the late 1990s, to be honest. When I was in the industrial services part of the business (at Brambles), we used to manage contracts that were require us to look at innovative ways to reduce our client’s costs. And by doing so, we were able to win new contracts and renew contracts. And I went to businesses and really looked at, you know, we were managing the waste at the time, but looking at ways, well, where was this waste coming from?”

“The easy option for me would be just to take it (plastic film from new furniture just purchased) into my network of contacts and get it recycled. But I actually put my hat on. While I’m a mother of three daughters, I’m actually apart of a community. And if it wasn’t easy for me to recycle as a as a mother, as a community member, then I know it wouldn’t be easy for other people.”

‘I was chairing the local Waste Management Association of Australia, the Hunter Regional Working Group. So, I had contacts, obviously, in all the waste management companies. So, I went along with a bag of plastic that I’d collected and said, “Look, I’ve got an idea. Who’d like to be involved?” And not surprisingly, I didn’t get any takers. It wasn’t a lot of value in plastic at that time.’

“So, I actually went out and bought a shipping container and approached my local school where my children attended at the time.”

Samantha Cross and Shipping Container

“I wanted to actually help communities not only take it away from landfill, but also start to realise the amount of packaging that we do use and other ways to reduce this packaging waste. Because at the end of the day, we still have to find markets for this material.”

“Plastic Police is committed to educating and empowering organisations and communities to implement circular economy solutions. So, we’ve always maintained it’s not just a recycling program. Because at the end of the day, if we’re not buying back products, then we really don’t have a sustainable recycling solution.”

“Once we had finished the trial, I announced to the school community that the trial had finished, and there was community outrage. The reason being was they didn’t want to stop it.”

“We know the logistics in any recycling is a huge cost, and there’s a lot that goes into logistics.”

“We actually put the brakes on bringing anyone new on board because that just wasn’t feasible at the time. And I didn’t want to commit to collecting any plastic that I actually couldn’t find a home for.”

“If someone rings up and says, “I want to recycle my plastic. How much does it cost?” They would probably not our target at this point in time because we were doing a lot of face to face education, engagement. So, the people that were actually coming on board are the ones that actually saw more than it being just a recycling program. It was actually a community and staff engagement program.”

“It’s not seen as a recycling program or a waste management program. It’s actually a behaviour change community engagement program that ticks the boxes for a number of our participants in the SDG. space – Sustainable Development Goals.”

“We just haven’t gone in and spoken to the person responsible for the recycling the organisation. We go in, and we engage with everyone in the organisation because we really think everyone has a role to play to actually implement those circular solutions.”

“We’re actually going to focus on those two key areas: helping people to reduce soft plastic waste and secondly, buying back recycled products.”

“We really want to give people the tools to go in and implement this program themselves and really put their stamp on it. And if they know they want to own this program and in that respect, we are actually going to develop a blueprint. It’s called the Plastic Police Blueprint, which really shares our learnings over the last five years.”

“I think at the end of the day, where we add the most value is definitely on the education engagement side, and the repurchasing back, educating people about what they can repurchase back.”

Plastic Police educating kids about soft plastic

Links & Resources

Other Plastics Revolution podcast guests mentioned:

Manufactures of recycled products using soft plastic:

Abigail Forsyth of KeepCup:

Starting a reusable movement

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Abigail Forsyth, the co-founder and managing director of KeepCup.

Abigail and her brother were running a number of cafes in the Melbourne area when they recognised the amount of disposable coffee cups going through their business and ending up in landfill.  Even worse, they couldn’t believe that there wasn’t already a reusable alternative on the market.

Ten years later, the KeepCup brand has become the generic term for a reusable coffee cup in many places.

We hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Abigail Forsyth of KeepCup.


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

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 1.51 | How did KeepCup get started?
  • 4.24 | Abigail’s “why”
  • 5.10 | First steps
  • 7.25 | Funding the business and testing their minimum viable product
  • 9.19 | Made in Australia
  • 11.45 | What is quality?
  • 14.13 | Coffee culture acceptance
  • 15.30 | Impacts of Covid
  • 18.21 | From start-up to a global company
  • 20.27 | All English-speaking markets are different
  • 22.52 | Customisations
  • 23.10 | Dealing with cheaper competitors
  • 25.10 | What does it mean to be a “B Corps”
  • 28.22 | Star Wars KeepCups?
  • 30.03 | The challenges of making the KeepCup from recycled materials
  • 32.28 | Break-even lifecycle analysis of the KeepCup versus single-use
  • 33.31 | Future developments
  • 35.04 | A business with purpose
  • 36.54 | Where to buy a KeepCup?

Quotes from Abigail Forsyth in this episode:

‘And I still remember back in the early 2000s – a lawyer saying to me, “I feel like a baby drinking out of this sort of sippy cup.” And years later, we’re all drinking out of them and no one is thinking twice about it.’

“I did a bit of research, found out that they (single-use cups) were not recyclable and that they were actually a really thin plastic cup – a polyethylene cup, usually with a paper lining, and just became concerned about the number of them we went through as a business.”

“I looked around just initially just to find a reusable cup to, you know, to sell in our cafes and to encourage people to reuse. And when I went to the shops, I couldn’t find anything.”

“We saved money as a business every time they did (bring their reusable cup), because the disposable packaging cost us 70 cents and we were giving people 50 cents off. So financially, it was a win, win.”

“My grandfather always said lots of people talk about things that few people do them.”

“I thought, would I give her (Abigail’s daughter) the milk in a disposable cup? And that idea just seemed so wrong to be teaching a child that, you know, you just drink out of something and throw it in a bin.”

‘One of the manufacturers said to me, “You know, you’re just making a plastic cup. Like, what are you thinking?… So, what I would suggest to you is before you go into tooling, go and try and sell it.”

“I think I called about 150 companies and, you know, went to the catering manager, and then asked to speak to the sustainability manager who never had a budget. So, then I had to get to the marketing manager and, you know, really got to refine the pitch.”

“We sold 10,000 cups before we even had finished making the tool.”

“It seemed self-evident to me that in order to be a business that was about sustainability and reducing impact, we had to do everything at every stage of the journey to reduce impacts. So, making the product in Australia, we never looked anywhere else.”

“Part of the sustainability of the product is that it’s modular so that if you’ve got a drawer of KeepCups, you can put any lid on any product. Or if you break something, you can just replace the part.”

‘If you get the people behind the coffee machine endorsing it and going, “Cool KeepCup,” then you’re going to build audience quickly. Because one of the biggest impediments for people is … not wanting to put someone out by going in and saying, “Can you please fill this for me?”’

‘We know firsthand how tight margins are in cafes. And so, we’ve always walked a line where we’ve sort of encouraged people to reuse and not, you know, advocated a ban on single use. But I think coming out of this crisis, there needs to be much stronger action around climate. And I think that what we’re seeing is a lot of cafes now coming out and saying, “We’re actually not going to use disposable cups at all. We’re going to have to relook at our business model.”’

‘There’s a quote from Thomas Carlyle that I love, “that the merit of originality is not novelty, it’s sincerity.”

“If you scratch the surface of our business and our brand, we are true to everything we stand by from front to back. I think is part of what’s had us, you know, stand the test of time.”

“The authenticity of our voice around calling out single use has stood us in good stead… we were giving that message when it was unpopular to say. But holding true to our values has, you know, has meant that we’ve had longevity because of that.”

“We’ve been a B Corps since 2014 and those requirements keep ratcheting up as you are a B Corps for a longer period of time. But it has also given us great insight into what best practise looks like. So, from those assessments, you get great ideas about how you want to make your business better.”

“Ten years ago, to become sustainable or to identify as green was seen as quite a huge undertaking. And I think what KeepCup did at the point in time that we entered the market was to become a really easy entry point to that conversation that you didn’t need to fully identify as green… but there’s been this growing awakening that the problem is so big and so catastrophic that any effort that we make is going to make a difference.”

Links & Resources

Books mentioned:

Stephen Webster of Integrated Recycling

Scaling a recycled plastics product manufacturer

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Stephen Webster of Integrated Recycling, an Australian manufacturer of recycled plastic products.

In this show, we learn about the origins of the company and how it’s progressed from making posts from the recycled plastic film that was used to cover grapevines to a much greater variety of products now.  This includes their Duratrack railway sleepers and their “in-development” urban noise barriers – both that have the potential to use a huge amount of recycled plastic.

I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Stephen Webster of Integrated Recycling.


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

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 2.00 | About Integrated Recycling
  • 3.59 | No need to wash plastic
  • 5.54 | Starting with recycled vine posts from grape covers – not all ideas work
  • 7.59 | Other products – broad range is important in Australia
  • 9.17 | Customer demand is changing for recycled plastic products
  • 10:50 | Whole of life cost – a business case using bollards as an example
  • 12:38 | Who are their customers?
  • 13.31 | Business changes due to Covid?
  • 17.01 | Sourcing recycled plastic locally
  • 18.31 | Duratrack railway sleepers development – how much recycled plastic could it use? About 31,500 tonnes for Queensland Rail alone!
  • 28.56 | Recycle first policy in Victoria
  • 30.49 | Fit for purpose
  • 32.28 | Buying Australian
  • 33.55 | More about Stephen and Boscastle meat pies
  • 36.54 | Stephen’s greatest challenge and new products under development
  • 39.45 | Advice for customers interested in pursuing recycled plastic options
  • 41.24 | How to contact Integrated Recycling about their products or your product development ideas

Quotes from Stephen Webster in this episode:

“The genesis of the business was the idea of taking table grape vine covers and turning them back into posts for the table grapes to grow on.”

“An idea might be good, but it never it really eventuated. Vine posts are not a big part of our business because the price of the recycled plastic post is in excess of the price of the treated pine posts that are most commonly used in the vine industry. So, we have moved into other products as a consequence of that rather than concentrating on that industry.”

“Products made from traditional materials like timber or concrete, are the ones in which we compete. And we have a strong market in quite a wide range. It probably reflects a lot of what Australia is – it’s very broad, but not necessarily very deep in its markets. So, we have to have quite a wide range to ensure that we can have available to the marketplace lots of different products.”  

 “Recycled plastic products are durable and will outlast the environmental degradation that’s caused to the timber products. And people are starting to take account of the whole of life cost as a consequence of that, rather than just the immediate cost. So, it’s a really important factor because the cost in the cost of timber is not necessarily built the full cost, the environment cost, of the product itself.”

“It’s the labour cost to install that that really drives up that whole of life cost for a timber product compared to a recycled plastic product.”

“There’s no maintenance required. They don’t need to be revarnished or repainted in the way that a timber product would.”

“We take a regional approach. So, we get most of our materials locally around Mildura. And this helps get the circular economy going.”

“Our move into that product (railway sleepers) was really prompted by my experience and of load bearing plastics and finding that our plastic could be formed in a way that could carry loads. I was really wanting to push the boundaries of what we can do with our plastics. And through testing and experience, we saw that there was there was significant market infrastructure that could be available for this sort of product.”

“There were no standards in Australia related to the use of recycled plastic in railway sleepers. So first, the Institute of Railway Technology at Monash needed to write guidelines, and then we made the sleepers to those guidelines that were then tested in the lab and tested in track with a number of Tourism and Heritage Railways around Victoria.”

“The reason that Queensland Rail wanted to do this is that their timber sleepers had changed on average every 14 years.  So, it became economically and environmentally unsustainable to carry on that practise. So, one of the requirements of any alternate material sleeper was to have a design life of 50 years.”

“We saw that load bearing capabilities – that if we could establish it through testing and trialling and give people the confidence that the product can do what we know it can do – then we can create these deep markets that will enable us to recycle a lot of material, but also create a business, create a new industry, create new jobs, create new jobs in regional Australia. So, there are lots of boxes that are ticked through the successful use of this product.”

“We find that we have a large number of customers that come back regularly and that are in a government or semi-government type buyers because they understand the characteristics and the capabilities of the product. It works for them. Yes, it costs a little bit more, but not over the long term. And they realise that, and they value the product and take pride in the fact that they’re using it.”

“There is an education piece required because, you know, early products in any industry may not quite live up to the claims or hopes of them. But later, iterations of it do develop out those kinks. And we know that the products work and are fit for purpose.”

“It (quality standards) are really critical where you’ve got a really highly safety conscious environment. For non-safety or non-critical products, the standards  probably can be less stringent.”

“If there are government procurement policies for recycled plastic products, it’s got to be Australian made recycled plastic products, not products that are bought in from overseas. And the content level of plastic is important to know. Where is that plastic being sourced? Is it reusing plastics that our government desires to be used? And how can they be reused?”

“We’re using all the learnings from the dual track product and creating these patented blocks that can stack and interlock with each other to then put heavy pieces of equipment on for maintenance.”

“And the other big area that we’re working in is we’ve got a research project with University of Melbourne on the development of using our materials for noise wall barriers.”

“We can only talk about the durability, the resistance to environmental degradation, the lack of maintenance required during the term of its service life. And those characteristics are critical in use in its application. We can then support what our product can do in an engineering sense to validate that it’s going to be fit for the purpose that they require. But it’s up to them then to decide how they spend their money.”

“The thinking around what the circular economy can mean to people and that it can have a significant effect on our lives and how we can benefit each other is something that people need to or should just become more aware of. And what great innovation there is in Australia. Take pride in the fact that we can produce solutions in Australia and that not necessarily importing the products from overseas is the best answer just because it’s the cheapest.”

Links & Resources

Other Plastics Revolution podcast guests mentioned:

Chris Tangey of Ecycle Solutions

Chris Tangey of Ecycle Solutions:

Recycling Polystyrene

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Chris Tangey of  Ecycle Solutions, an Australian recycler of e-waste and polystyrene. 

Polystyrene has been a popular padding and packaging solution for a long time. However, because it’s really 98% air, it’s been the bugbear of the plastics recycling industry because it’s very difficult to transport it at a profitable rate.

Chris and I talked about the value of this recyclable material and why they are able to provide this service when most other recyclers can’t.

I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Chris Tangey of Ecycle Solutions.


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

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 2.09 | Getting into the electronics waste (e-waste) recycling business
  • 4.14 | How did Chris get involved with Ecycle Solutions?
  • 7.17 | Why they can recycle polystyrene when others say it’s too expensive
  • 9.12 | The price for recycling polystyrene with Ecycle Solutions’
  • 10.47 | Changes to the demand for polystyrene for packaging – or not?
  • 12.09 | The desire to trial a school education, consumer waste recycling program in the Australian Capital Territory.
  • 13.33 | Impacts on the Australian ban for the exports of single resin or polymer plastics
  • 14.47 | State landfill bans for polystyrene and other materials.
  • 16.12 | Integrated Recycling –  a processor for recycled polystyrene
  • 18.34 | Uses of recycled polystyrene
  • 22.27 | The potential for recycling even more of this material just through retail partners
  • 23.50 | Impacts of Covid-19? It’s like Christmas!
  • 24.39 | Impacts of oil prices
  • 27.42 | Beware of the lack of environmental benefits of the cold-press method for compacting polystyrene
  • 29.57 | How to learn more about Ecycle Solutions.
  • 30.48 | You can recycle your e-waste for free without buying a replacement
  • 31.52 | How much polystyrene do they recycle each year? “The equivalent of the Sydney cricket ground.”

Quotes from Chris Tangey in this episode:

“Going back to 2012, what happened was that the government introduced the National TV and Computer Recycling Scheme. And what happens is that importers have an obligation through legislation to recycle two-thirds of what they bring into the country. And that increases by 2% every year up to the point where it gets to 80%. And they have to sign up with a regulator to do that, of which Ecycle Solutions was born.”

“We have collection cages at the likes of Harvey Norman because they’re doing home deliveries. So, they pick up end-of-life units, bringing them back. And we have cages at Harvey Norman stores to collect those units, which then go and recycle into reusable material, greater than 90% reusable material. We’re currently at about 95%. What also happened was that the packaging needs to be recycled and the polystyrene was problematical one. And we sourced a solution whereby it’s fully recycled.”

“I really like the whole idea of recycling. And what I found is I’m working with third party recyclers on the e-waste, and they’re specialist recyclers and they are small to medium businesses. And I’m helping their businesses to grow. And they’re all growing exponentially which has been a fantastic story. And the whole thing about a polystyrene and what it becomes – people are fascinated by it. So, it’s a good news story.”

“I suppose the reason why our system works is that the trucks are going to the locations where the waste is, and they’ve got a payload that pays for itself, as in the freight. And then they were going to return empty to the depot. So, the most will come back with end of life TVs.”

“It’s a logistics exercise, and it’s (polystyrene) very light and a huge volume. So, it’s one of those things that the volume of it means that the freighting of it is expensive if you aren’t doing it by reverse-logistics. If you have to send a truck out to go to an electrical retailer to just pick up polystyrene – well, the charge for that service would be too great and that will just end up in the waste bin.”

The difficulty with Councils is, you know, you’ve got to desticker it, you’ve got to clean it. And they don’t have those systems in place to do it. And someone’s got to pay. And Councils don’t want to pay.”

“You’ve got to be able to centralise where waste is collected from because it’s a logistics exercise. So, it’s not a dirty waste stream. So, it’s a good thing to do, but to pay at the end of the day, that’s the issue. There is a cost. It costs money to run trucks and to then process the waste and to buy the equipment to process it. You’ve got to get a gate fee.”

“Polystyrene, as you know, you can grab it and you can snap it and it’s really quite fragile. But when you recycle it, it becomes 2% of what it was. So, four cubic metres will make a block that is 1ft2 and about six inches high. So that’s what it becomes. And it’s really dense and quite heavy. That’s 20 kilos in that block. So, it’s like a rock.”

“If you look on our website, it’ll tell you where our collection points are for e-waste.”

“People obviously have taken the opportunity during the Covid to do a clean-up because we had our biggest collection month ever, last month…specifically for the e-waste side, but it also translated into the polystyrene because the more sales and home deliveries and things like that that happened, the collection of the waste increased on both sides.”

“There are two ways of recycling polystyrene at the moment. And there are businesses that are large generators of polystyrene waste and are using what is called a cold press method of recycling polystyrene. And what it does is that it squeezes all of the air out of the polystyrene and makes it into these sort of dense logs. But there’s not much you can do with that once it’s in that form. So, a lot of that ends up going to landfill in any case. So, it’s sort of a bit of a pointless exercise.”

We’re probably processing the equivalent of the Sydney cricket ground filled with loose polystyrene each year. Now, at least that’s not going into a hole in the ground.”

Links & Resources

  • Learn more about Ecycle Solutions on their website.
  • Find out more about recycling polystyrene here:
  • Get in touch with them on their contact page.

Other Episodes Mentioned in this Show:

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz of Plastic Free July:

Becoming (single-use) plastic free one person at a time

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Rebecca Prince-Ruiz of Plastic Free July

Rebecca didn’t mean to start a global movement.  She just set a family challenge to reduce the amount of plastic that they were using in the month of July. Now with an estimated 250 million people involved in 177 countries, we talk about future as the organisation is about to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

We hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Rebecca Prince-Ruiz.


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

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 2.23 | Why July?
  • 2.52 | How did Plastic Free July begin?
  • 7.31 | Plastic or single-use plastic?
  • 8.51 | Creating behavioural change
  • 12.53 | Why start with single-use plastic bags?
  • 14.48 | It’s about choices
  • 17.02 | How do we not go backwards post-Covid-19?
  • 26.20 | What would she change going forward?
  • 32.07 | How to be locally focussed with a global movement?
  • 35.59 | Focus for Plastic Free July 2020.
  • 37.23 | More about Rebecca
  • 42.15 | Rebecca’s new book – Plastic Free
  • 47.30 | How to get involved in Plastic Free July

Quotes from Rebecca Prince-Ruiz in this episode:

‘I would never choose July if I did it again. It just happened to be the next month after I had my aha moment and said, “I’m going to try going single use plastic free.”’

“I didn’t set out to start a campaign or a movement. I just set out to change myself.”

“I suddenly realised that the most important thing I could do each week was not to fill my recycling bins, but to put less in it. And so, I decided to do it for myself and for my family.”

“Each year we slowly kind of built it more in terms of our actual campaign and more resources. And it really spread by word of mouth.”

‘I remember the first interview that I ever did. And at that point 10 years ago, just trying to get across the concept of single use plastic and the problems of that, using this material that’s designed to be on products that we just use for a few minutes. I couldn’t get that across in an interview on the radio. The journalists kept saying, ”but your phone’s plastic, and your car’s plastic and your computer is plastic.” And it’s like, “Yeah, and it’s a great material and we should value it and we should use it and we should reuse it.” And that was just a concept that was really, really difficult to get across. But, you know, fast forward the clock to 2018. And according to Collins Dictionary, it’s the word of a year. So there has been a really big change over the last 10 years.’

What we’re really about here at Plastic Free July is closing that gap and the disconnect between people’s values and concerns and attitudes and their consumer choices and behaviours.”

“You first have to get these people making changes in their own lives and then in their communities and then in some of the smaller retailers. And then there’s this flow on effects to bigger businesses and then governments taking it on board.”

“We like to offer people choice because the single use plastic, that might be the low hanging fruit for you where you live might be different from the one for me where I live. So, the common kind of easier swaps that we tend to encourage our participants to take as they’re going on this journey would be things like choosing unpackaged fruit and vegetables. Buying it loose, taking your own reusable produce bags. Choosing basically foodstuffs that are less packaged.”

“I think one thing that this virus has showed is that people can adapt very quickly and make changes for the right reason. We know that this plastics issue is of concern to people. So that does give me hope, firstly, that we can make changes back in the right direction.”

“There’s a need for some common sense to come in here. If we can’t do everything, if your cafe is not accepting reusable cups and you decide not to make it at home, just ask for no lid. It’s not about doing everything. It’s just about doing something.”

“At the end of the day, the least we can do is start to look at our food waste, to start be more resourceful, be less wasteful, use what we’ve got in our fridges and our pantries and our homes and throw less out. That’s less packaging. That’s saving money. It’s saving our time, and it’s saving trips to the supermarket at a time when, you know, many of us are really wanting to minimise how often where we’re going.

“This is no longer okay to be creating this much waste and the public wants to do it better and business does as well. And I think it makes good sense for businesses to make these kinds of changes.”

“My hope is that we start to really support our local businesses, our local growers, our local farmers, and develop kind of much more resilience and kind of provenance around our food and our communities and our holidays.”

“I think what difference can one person make? And I think the results of Plastic Free July speak to the power of that. What happens when people make that shift from changes in their own lives to taking them into their communities and kids’ schools and their workplaces or their different organisations and networks, and having those conversations and councils running events and people starting to take the challenge for a year and blogging about it and writing about it. There’s so many people who are part of this beautiful success story.”

“Single-Use plastics, no matter who you are, where you live on this planet or what your circumstances are, we pretty much all encounter single use plastics on a daily basis. And that’s why I think it has had such appeal, because no one’s okay with seeing those images of the plastic pollution on beaches or the turtle wrapped up in the plastic bag or the whale being full of it. It doesn’t sit well with anyone. There’s no denying the source of it. We see it in our daily lives. And that’s a point where we can be part of the solution and take action.”

Links & Resources

Other Plastics Revolution interviews mentioned in this show:

Michael and Tina Elias of MANRAGS

Michael Elias of MANRAGS:

Circular Socks and Jocks

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Michael Elias of MANRAGS, a men’s essential clothing line and textiles recycling service. 

Michael was in banking industry when he and his wife, Tina, decided to sell socks through a subscription side-hustle. The business did so well that he eventually left his job to focus on it full time. Yet soon afterwards, Michael realised that his own business was adding to the landfill problem. This started the next phase of the business which they are undergoing now to close the loop on textile waste.

I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Michael Elias of MANRAGS.


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

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 1.54 | More about MANRAGS
  • 11.26 | Sourcing material in Egypt
  • 13.26 | Who is the actual customer? “The average life of one man’s underwear globally is seven years!”
  • 15.15 | Do men’s socks and jocks go ‘out of style’?
  • 16.26 | Impact of Covid-19 on business
  • 19.07 | How does their recycling service work?
  • 23.07 | What happens to the recycled socks?
  • 26.58 | Is local manufacturing sustainable once borders open up again?
  • 28.37 | Breaking news from MANRAGS!
  • 30.37 | Sustainability requires profits too
  • 31.47 | Moving in to other textile recycling as a business move?
  • 33.00 | Partnerships
  • 37.08 | Why creating a circular loop for their products is important
  • 38.02 | Career change – from banking to making socks?
  • 40.51 | Customers – who are they really?
  • 42.48 | Advice for those considering a career change
  • 44.37 | The plastic-free packaging journey
  • 47.18 | How to learn more about MANRAGS

Quotes from Michael Elias in this episode:

“I was wearing some quirky and fun, colourful socks to work in my corporate life and realised that meetings became about not how to make billions of dollars from customers, but what kind of colour socks are you wearing today.”

Funny enough, we began growing in Singapore faster than we were growing in Australia… We hadn’t actually considered the logistics of international operations back then.”

“I think we’re in over 70 countries around the world. So, we’re on this ride. We had great growth. And then early last year, we began questioning our purpose.”

Last year, something happened where I probably have one of the largest sock drawers in the country, potentially in the world. And I came to clear out my drawers, which is a problem all of our customers and subscribers have, and realised that there was nothing you could do with old worn socks here in Australia. The only solution is to put them in the bin.”

“We identified an issue that some people may have never actually considered because socks are only a small little item. But, you know, what we found was people who have been recycling with us now for the last seven or eight months. They had been hoarding socks for years because they were not comfortable with putting them in the bin.”

“We recently launched Australia’s first digital direct to consumer textile recycling programme, which customers now around Australia can log onto our site request to pick up. And we pick up their old textiles from their house, from their front doorstep.”

“We’re now on a journey to become a fully circular Essentials brand, ensuring that our products never end up in landfill and that we have a second life solution for all of our products.”

“We’ve had to pull back completely on international marketing because we’re seeing products being held up at customs and borders for weeks and up to months.“

“Socks are specifically the least donated item in the world. So, actually from a Second Life perspective, there are a number of second life markets asking for socks.”

“The only saving grace here is that some of the equipment and machinery that’s been developed requires a little bit less overheads from a labour cost. And so, an investment in machinery and technology has a saving over a longer term value add, but does cost a lot upfront.”

“We’re about to release our first pair of recycled cotton socks.”

“We’re learning and we want to continue to learn and we want to change the way things are. And, you know, we will do that step by step and we’ll do it both with a focus on triple bottom line… At the end of the day, unless we continue to demonstrate that sustainability can equal success, people will not jump on the bandwagon.”

“I think there’s a very big difference here where we’re seeing a significant amount of new things come through – anywhere between 5% to 10% which, you know, hurts a little bit when you think about what consumerism, materialism or that type of thing. But, you know, we’re not trying to solve for that, we just want to see that it doesn’t end up in the ground.”

“We’ve made many, many mistakes along the way. And if we had waited for the perfect product and if we had waited for the perfect website and, you know, if we had waited, waited – we would never have launched.”

‘Eighty percent of stocks around the world, a little plastic pin holds the socks together. Most of the time, it holds the label to the sock. And then, you know, both socks together. We went as far as saying, “Well, we’re going to make our label detachable to ensure that we no longer need to use this little piece of plastic pin to hold the socks together because it makes no sense.”’

Links & Resources

Other Plastics Revolution interviews mentioned in this show:

Paul Jenkins of ThePackHub:

Sustainable packaging trends

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Paul Jenkins of ThePackHub, a packaging consulting firm based in Banbury, England. 

In this show, we learn more about the sustainability trends that he’s seeing in the consumer packaging space including newer trends that have been prompted recently by Covid-19.  This includes the changes that brands have had to make to online distribution models and hygiene concerns.

I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Paul Jenkins of ThePackHub.


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

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 2.00 | About ThePackHub
  • 3.39 | Elements of Packaging
  • 4.52 | Considerations of online shopping – functionality and unboxing
  • 7.33 | How did Paul get involved in packaging?
  • 9.09 | 7 sustainable packaging trends
    • Compostable and biogradable packaging
    • Biomaterials
    • Recycling
    • Reusable/refillable
    • Carbon footprint concern
    • Reduce waste
    • Plastic elimination
  • 14.06 | Deep dive into compostable, biodegradable and biomaterials
  • 19.46 | Recycled content taxes in the UK
  • 21.17 | Carbon footprint concerns heading towards more “Local?”
  • 23.15 | Reducing waste
  • 24.41 | Plastic elimination
  • 25.51 | Can kraft paper tubes actually be recycled? Ties back to a previous podcast interview with Jon Williams of Alliance Paper.
  • 27.24 | Future trends impacted by Covid-19
  • 32.52 | Comparison of markets as Australia has flattened the Covid-19 curve more successfully than other places
  • 35.01 | Advice for brand owners
  • 36.20 | How to learn more about ThePackHub.

Quotes from Paul Jenkins in this episode:

“Sustainability is very much the first priority now. That hasn’t always been the case. But in the last couple of years, sustainable packaging and its many forms has been the primary requirement for packaging change.”

“The continual growth of online shopping, which has been accelerated obviously over the last two or three months through Covid-19 restrictions. And of course, the whole shopper behaviour is different in that environment. Consumers or rather shoppers are not selecting products based on how the packaging looks in a supermarket shelf. They’re buying it on a computer screen or a smartphone app. So, the interaction is very different. So, their first moment of truth is when the product is received at home.”

“The e-commerce channel, it certainly has offered some additional opportunities and challenges for brands and retailers, both from a presentation point of view, a protection point of view, but also an environmental one as well”.

“In terms of all packaging trends, the majority of them are of sustainability base. So ThePackHub tracks 10 different trend areas and seven are to do with sustainability.”

“We’re seeing a big increase in the development of compostable or compostable biodegradable solutions over the last two or three years ago. They tend to be from smaller challenger brands than the big players at the moment.”

“Recycling is clearly a huge area of development. And so that is not just improving the recyclability of both products. It’s also increasing the recycled content in those products.”

“We’ve also seen probably the biggest change of all the sustainability trends over the last six to nine months is in terms of reusable and refillable packaging.”

Blue Planet II programme was aired October 2017. And really that set a groundswell of changes and activities with sustainability really being at the centre of all packaging changes.”

“I think if you ask the average person in the street to describe and explain what compostable and biodegradable packaging is, they would struggle.”

“I don’t really think environmentally friendly is a terminology that should be used as liberally as it is. To say that something is sustainable – it’s just more sustainable. It’s not completely sustainable, obviously.”

“The industry has worked hard to reduce the amount of material being used, which has not just environmental benefits, but also sort of cost reduction benefits. And ultimately, really, that was that was the motivation to do these initiatives in the past. But now there is an added environmental incentive to reduce the weight of the packaging.”

“From a sustainability point of view, you need to look at all factors to do with the environment and the impact that your product will have on the environment. You need to be wary of the language you use, and how you communicate what you’re doing.”

Links & Resources

Paul Kylmenko of Planet Ark

Paul Klymenko of Planet Ark:

Planet Stewardship

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Paul Klymenko of Planet Ark

Paul started his career in finance before realising that the only way he could reduce his stress about environmental concerns was to create solutions for it. And so he did so as a co-founder and now the CEO of this environmental behaviour change organisation.

In this show, we talk about how it started, their current campaigns, issues impacting the environment right now, as well as their latest program to be announced, the National Circular Economy Hub and Marketplace.

I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Paul Klymenko of Planet Ark.


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

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 1.54 | About Planet Ark – what they support, not what they are against
  • 4.20 | Example of printer ink cartridges partnership with Close the Loop – 45+ million cartridges later
  • 6.25 | Working with the “devil”
  • 7.34 | First stewardship program
  • 10.21 | Who does the recycling and conversion of the resources collected?
  • 12.02 | The hardest part of creating these programs
  • 13.43 | An environmental behaviour change organisation
  • 16.50 | The carrot or the stick
  • 18.52 | How do they prioritise opportunities for impacting the environment?
  • 20.50 | Focussing on the day to day impact
  • 22.14 | Business versus consumer impact
  • 26.23 | People concerns provide ammunition for change
  • 28.49 | Impact of Covid-19 and past recessions/depressions
  • 31.21 | How to continue environmental work during these times.
  • 36.22 | More about Paul
  • 42.26 | National Circular Economy Hub and Marketplace – “I think it possibly could be the biggest achievement in Planet Ark’s history.”
  • 48.05 | How to find out more about Planet Ark.

Quotes from Paul Klymenko in this episode:

‘Most environmental organisations back then were really defining themselves by what they were against. They were protesting. They were saying these are the things we can’t do and not really focussing on solutions. And we thought, “Well, at the end of the day, there’s not much point raising problems if you don’t actually then give solutions for people...” So, we were an organisation that was going to define ourselves by what we supported, what we were for. And also, we were going to provide solutions.’

“We work with businesses. We work with the community to create the solution… And, you know, everyone plays a role – from the manufacturers by providing funding to close the loop, to allow them to collect it and also recycle it and also spend money on R&D to create even better uses for the materials that come out of the recycling process, and to allow us to educate and inspire people like yourself to actually make that effort of taking it because the rubbish bin is always the easiest bin.”

“We believe most people want to make that effort as long as you make it relatively simple for them.”

‘Referring back to 1992, saying you were going to work with business to create positive environmental change back then – it was probably the equivalent of the Pope going out to his flock or the head of the Church of England saying, “Look, we’re going to work with the devil to create this change as well.”’

“We always worked on this principle that we’re a leverage organisation. So, what we’re doing is we find all the partners. We’re a relatively small group of people. We can’t do all these things. But we learnt from the early days the skill of effective collaboration. So, finding the right people to create a system that would make it work.”

“Information is not behaviour change.”

‘It’s quite an interactive process, but we have to say, “Can we get significant environmental improvement? And is that a doable thing?” If I said, “I just created the most amazing thing, but it’s going to increase the price of that thing by a 1000%.” I’ll just go, “Nah, not ready!”’

“Now, the interesting thing is, through this great suppression of economic activity, we’ve seen all these environmental benefits. L.A. having half the air pollution. People be able to see the Himalayas from in India for the first time in 30, 40 years. Dolphins in the harbour in Venice.”

“How can we get those environmental benefits that we all want to have by changing the way we run our economy. That’s really the crucial thing. And I think that can only be done by us becoming a carbon neutral, circular economy. If we achieve that, all the environmental issues –  and I’m talking about everything from climate change to ocean plastics to toxic water and air pollution can be solved by doing that.”

“What it (Covid-19 measures) demonstrated to me is that we can move very quickly, and we need to move very quickly to solve our environmental issues, because otherwise, as someone once said to me, nature will solve it for us.”

“I see being circular is also being much more economically efficient.”

‘When people say, “What’s a circular economy?” Well, you have to actually point out what we’ve currently got, which is a linear economy, which is – extract, grow, use, put it a bin and throw it in the ground… But a circular economy is where you keep those resources. You sustainably harvest them and mine them, too. And you maximize the utility in our economy for as long as possible.’   

“How circular is the world now? There has been a couple of circular gap reports come out, and it’s less than 10 percent.”

“If you could make things relatively easy for people, you would get much higher behavioural changes than if you make it incredibly hard.”

Links & Resources

Green Caffeen: Update

Reusable Cups during Covid-19

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat again with Damien Clarke and Martin Brooks from Green Caffeen to get an update on their reusable coffee cup program during this Covid-19 crisis.

In this show we talk about the safety of using their program, how its been impacted during this time, as well as how you can help out your favourite cafes by saving them money.

I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with the guys from Green Caffeen.


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

Topics from this Episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 2.29 | Where is the business plan for what to do in a pandemic?
  • 3.15 | Green Card certification process to keep people safe
  • 7.52 | New cup made from Australian recycled plastic
  • 9.28 | Canberra leading adoptions of the Green Caffeen reusable cup program
  • 10.10 | You can grow your business during this crisis?
  • 11.01 | Hint of more to come soon
  • 11.57 | How to help your local cafes financially through the Green Caffeen Program

Quotes from Damien and Martin in this episode:

“Martin and I have continually referred to our business plan and tried to look up the pandemic episode. What do you do in a pandemic in your business plan? And we haven’t come across that page just yet. We’ve had to make it up as we go with everybody else.” – Damien

“We had cafes start banning reusable cups, the BYOB personal cups, but they all started seeing Green Caffeen as a really good, clean, safe, viable sort of system to offer a usuals to their customers. We saw… some of our peak number of cafe registrations in the two or three weeks when Covid first came out.” – Damien

“Basically, all we wanted to do was just reassure the customers that walked into a cafe that the Green Caffeen system was a safe and clean system to use.” – Martin

“Any cafe that has in-house dining options has a certain standard that they have to clean their dining, in-house dining utensils. And that can be anywhere from using a special type of cleaning liquid or getting a dishwasher over a certain temperature degree-wise. So, we just really wanted to push that these are not just getting rinsed under a cold water tap in the back of the shop. They are getting sanitised correctly to a standard that’s normally either set by the by a New South Wales Government or the state government or a local council.”  – Martin

“What we wanted to do was to work with our cafes to actually protect their workers. So, we set up some contactless handling and drop off points and some systems that ensured that the staff weren’t sort of touching the cup every day, every hour, every minute as one of these cups came in. That there was a collection point, and they could get themselves some gloves and their mask and put them straight into a dishwasher without actually having to touch the cups themselves.” – Damien

“Canberra’s now the epicentre of the Green Caffeen model at the moment across Australia. It’s just growing, it’s striving and it’s doing really, really well.” – Damien

“These cups are actually now made from recycled PET. So, they actually take a waste, turn it into a resource, which is the cup and a valuable reusable. And then those cups go around, arounda around, which actually eliminates waste.” – Damien

“All our materials are sourced locally here in Australia and manufactured here in Australia.” – Damien

“Some of our best cafes we have actually grown their numbers of users. So, they’ve actually grown their Green Caffeen active users in a period of time where people actually have said no to reusuables.” – Damien

“The average takeaway coffee drinker will consume $72 worth of packaging which a cafe has to pay for in 12 months. So, you can help your cafe by reducing that $72 worth the packaging by using a Green Caffeen cup, not only can you get in more profitable and back up on their feet quicker, but you can actually save the planet and reduce the impact on single use coffee cups at the same time.” – Damien

Links & Resources

#30 – Special Episode

Call to buy recycled plastic products

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, we have a very special show during the Covid-19 crisis.  There are three new challenges for the recycled plastic industry right now, and you can actually help as a consumer by buying more recycled plastic products.

It’s clear that businesses have been impacted in various ways – some for the better, but many for the worse.

The recycled plastics industry is really one of those that is hurting right now – not because of the lack of materials. All my sources say that recycling levels really haven’t change.  The challenge is that the buyer market has been greatly impacted first by the China Sword in 2018 when Asian country buyers quit taking a lot of the recycled plastics that western countries generated.

Three New Challenges for the Recycled Plastic Industry

Now, we have a new crisis which is putting the industry in a really challenging space due to multiple threats. This includes:

  1. Significant Increase single use plastic not just with personal protection equipment but have you noticed the take-away coffee cups and plastic take-away containers spilling out of council bins lately?
  2. Price of oil at an all-time low impacting the difference in prices between:
    • Virgin plastic versus recycled plastic
    • Waste to energy compared to petrochemicals
    • Biochemical or bioplastics alternatives compared to petrochemical

What this means that it’s more far more expensive for manufacturers to make environmentally friendly decisions about their packaging and energy needs.

  1. Government councils have suddenly reduced their spending on products that are made of recycled plastic as their priorities are directed elsewhere right now.

What this means is that we have way more plastic to recycle than ever, but there is less demand for this material which means that it could go into landfill if this doesn’t change.

So, what can you do as a consumer?

I’ve been in touch with a number of our previous guests, and I want to share with you 3 products that you can personal buy made from recycled plastic that will make a difference..


Episode #2 – Stephanie Stubbe of Anipal, they make dog collars from recycled plastic. Steph told me that they are currently selling their products in 60+ vet clinics around Australia, but you can pick one up at their website.

They’re also expanding their product range and creating further sustainable alternatives for the pet & vet industry.  So, stay tone for future announcements about that.  In the meantime, check out their website at

Plastic Forests

In Episode #9 and #10 – I spoke with David Hodge of Plastic Forests.  They take plastic like from the Redcycle bins you see at Coles and Woolies and turn it into products.  Just recently, they’ve release some heart shape and circular, above ground garden beds that you can purchase for your own yards.

The heart one in particular is something I love because not only does it look great, but I also think it would be easier to reach your veggies or flowers in the middle of the bed. Check it out at

Recycled Mats

Finally, you might remember JJ Stranan of Recycled Mats from Episode #19.  She has a number of products made from recycled plastic including some made from old car tires.

In late May, she’ll have some new mats being released. She’s given me and now you a sneak preview though.  One that I really love is of a kangaroo designed by aboriginal artist, Dale Austin.

This 95% recycled plastic mat tells a story that comes from the Gagadju people.

This product should be available in late May.  In the meantime, you can see her other products at

Why am I promoting these businesses?

These are not paid endorsements.

I highlight these businesses because as I and many of our guests have said:

Plastics are not recycled if they are only collected.  They are recycled when they are turned into something else.” 

Right now, businesses like this need conscious consumers more than ever to help them get through this difficult time.

So, I’m encouraging you to not only to recycle, but to buy products like these from recycled plastic. Together, we help keep the circular economy going during these challenging times and reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and hurt Mother Nature.

Next Time

Thanks for joining me today on this podcast. If you’ve found anything interesting or helpful, I’d really appreciate it if you’d subscribe to the show and to tell others.

Stay tune next week as I chat to another innovator, change maker or fellow entrepreneur who is leading the Plastics Revolution.

Be kind to animals and Mother Nature.


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