Agricultural use of single-use-plastics dwarves domestic use, Jenny Brown of Envorinex told a crowd of forty at The Precinct in Brisbane last night. The good news is that the company which she founded and heads as managing director, is doing something about it.
A manufacturer of plastic goods for industrial and infrastructure applications since 2003, Ms Brown has been waging war on waste by recycling as much plastic as possible and delivering goods made from 100% reclaimed waste in the bulk of her products.
“Plastic can be re-used dozens of times and last for centuries if it is properly processed,” she said, “the important thing is to get it right the first time.”
Some of Envorinex greatest successes include the processing of tonnes of bags and tubes used to deliver saline solution in hospital and converting that into mats and other products.
“All of the goods that leave our factory can be recycled again, and again and again,” she said.
Envorinex is based in northern Tasmania and employs around twelve full time staff on two different production lines, reclaiming and processing waste and producing a range of products from guide posts for roads, antifatigue mats for oil rigs, through to simple clips and accessories for a range of applications.
Ms Brown is in Queensland to explore the establishment of a processing plant to recycle a significant portion of the agricultural waste from the southern half of the state.
Her presentation included images of tonnes of single use plastic discarded by strawberry and livestock farmers. Envorinex also processes hard plastics recovered from mines and Tasmania’s very active salmon and oyster farming industry. The stanchions and frames used to contain the fish or on which the oysters grow, are replaced every three to five years and include many tonnes of plastic.
She said that the enemy of recycling is contamination. This is not so much the organic material that attaches to the plastic as the ropes, nylon clips and other attachments that have to be removed manually, vastly increasing the cost of handling and recycling.
She also noted that most manufacturers reduce costs by mixing substances such as sawdust with virgin plastics to reduce costs and by skimping on other additives that ensure longevity and recyclability.
Answering a question from the audience about domestic use of single-use-plastics she said that Envorinex deals exclusively with industrial and agricultural waste because domestic waste is so contaminated that it is extremely difficult to recycle.
“This is why the waste from Australia and other rich countries has been rejected by China, India and Malaysia. They simply cannot process it,” she said. The problem is partly that packaging is often made from a mixture of products that cannot be effectively separated as well as the poor handling and sorting on the part of domestic users.
She also noted that there are some applications, such as hospital equipment, where single use plastics are necessary but, that generally speaking, single use packaging items are the major problem.
More information is available from the Envorinex website