We have all known for some time that plastic pollution has been taking over our planet at a rapid rate, invading our rivers and oceans and adversely affecting wildlife and wildlife habitats.
Plastic is a durable material which is made to last forever. It cannot biodegrade, and if it does break down, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastic. So, it’s frightening to think that globally we produce over 300 million tonnes of plastic each year and only 9% of this is recycled.
Here in Australia we consume 345,000 tonnes of PET plastic each year. But of that we we only have one reprocessing plant in all of Australia – located in New South Wales which has the capacity to reprocess 20,000 tonnes annually.
Darren Lomman, Founder of Greenbatch knows this problem only too well and he’s had enough. He has started his own war on plastic pollution – starting with Western Australia.
“It’s amazing to think that here in Western Australia we currently have zero plastic reprocessing in place. With zero reprocessing, Western Australia is equal last in the world”, say’s Darren.
Darren’s war on plastic pollution began late one night in 2016.
“I saw a TV advert about reusable shopping bags which stated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish and this shocked me. I decided to Google this to find out more.
I discovered it wasn’t just environmental extremism and was actually derived from international scientific research, and had been presented at the World Economic Forum which backed up this theory.
The statistics were frightening. It got me thinking about recycling here in Western Australia. If only 9% of global plastic is recycled, how much are we recycling here in WA and what happens to our plastic once it goes into the yellow recycling bins?”
With this thought in his head Darren decided to show some initiative and followed a recycling truck back to the recycling depot. He got to meet with the CEO and asked him outright what happens to our plastic once it’s collected.
“I was told it was put on a ship and sent to China. So basically we were paying China to dispose of our plastic for us. The plastic was then either reprocessed, put into landfill or incinerated to create energy. But this came with a cost for China – pollution.”
Since then, China has banned the importation of plastic and have cleaned their act up considerably.
“I took a trip to China once the ban had come into place,” said Darren. “The rivers were clean. The streets were cleaner than Perth. There was no pollution.”
Now Western Australia is currently sending plastic to Malaysia, but they are getting swamped and are going to be implementing a ban soon. It’s clear that exporting waste plastic is not going to be a long term solution and Darren saw that.
“I decided someone needed to do something about this problem. We had to get on board and start reprocessing our plastic here in Western Australia.”
“I wanted to set up the first reprocessing plant in Western Australia, so we could treat the plastic we use as a resource and continuously reuse and recycle it. With the right processes, many plastics such as PET are recyclable indefinitely so there really is no excuse for plastics being used just once."
Darren approached Engenium’s Director David Sourbutts, whom he knew through the Leadership WA Alumni network, to provide project management and engineering assistance to get the idea moving.
“At the initial meeting with Darren I could see there was not only a great business opportunity here, but also the opportunity to truly establish an enterprise that would positively impact the Environment, Community and the future for my kids.
By bringing together the knowledge and experience Engenium has in getting resource ventures off the ground and into production, and the technical engineering knowledge of manufacturing projects from the Newcastle office, Engenium was able to redesign the facility from an initial concept of 300kg/hr of PET to 5,000 kg/hr of PET and HDPE plastic reprocessing.”
So, what’s the plan moving forward for Greenbatch?
Darren and David have developed a plan to establish Greenbatch as a true Social Enterprise.
The Greenbatch Foundation draws upon Darren’s extensive experience in the not-for-profit and community education sector. It will continue to expand and grow its school education program within Western Australia, and public open days are being held on the first weekend of the month to educate and encourage the public to start reprocessing their plastic containers.
The Greenbatch Processing business will become the commercial production arm of Greenbatch and complete the actual reprocessing of the plastic material.
“We are currently working on plans for the establishment of the reprocessing facility, and have commenced capital funding discussions.”
“Our vision is to have a network of plants across Australia so we can aim to reprocess all of our waste plastic and put it back into the system to use again.” Say’s Darren.
Engenium is excited to be a part of this highly important initiative. Well done Darren and David for pursuing it. Further updates on the project’s progress will be provided over the coming months, so watch this space!