Our goal is to engage, inspire and empower individuals, businesses and communities to act now when it comes to reducing and better managing end-of-life soft plastic waste. We help organisations connect and be part of the solution to close the loop on the soft plastics that we generate in our organisations, homes and local communities.
Plastic Police® has always been about more than recycling. We are passionate about environmental education and helping communities and organisations to rethink waste and, where possible, reduce their use of soft plastics. As a proven circular economy program, we investigate new ways and develop strategic collaborations that allow additional volumes of soft plastics to be collected, reprocessed and remanufactured for reuse, so together we can create a better future – for our planet and ourselves.
The Plastic Police® story is a simple but powerful one. It started with the belief that each of us can take actions, no matter how small, that help our local communities and organisations to better manage soft plastic waste. It started with a real problem that needed to be solved, the desire to make a difference and the willingness of many to challenge the status quo and trial something new. It started with an idea that has continued to evolve through collaborations, persistence and a belief that together we can make a difference.
In 2015, 94% of soft plastic packaging from NSW households ended up in landfill, with only a small percentage recycled via supermarket drop-off options. The was a severe lack of suitable options for businesses and councils to be able to divert larger volumes of soft plastics waste from landfill and have this material recycled locally in Australia. As a society, we were being confronted with the devastating impact of plastics ending up in litter streams and our oceans. In 2013, China placed restrictions on waste imports, including recyclables, being imported from Australia due to contamination issues. This was known as Operation Green Wall. The writing was indeed on the wall, as more restrictions would soon follow in the form of the China National Sword Policy announced mid-2017.
Rather than sit back feeling overwhelmed by the challenges faced, we decided to do something, however small and insignificant it may have seemed at the time. We commenced the initial Plastic Police® trial in 2015. This trial was undertaken in collaboration with a local school we had a strong connection with. The trial set about to engage with a school community and implement a circular economy program to tackle the issue of soft plastics. Within 12 months, over 1,000kg of plastic was collected and diverted from landfill. It created greater awareness around what could be achieved by working together. A bench seat made from 100% soft plastics was presented to the school during National Recycling Week in 2016. During the trial, we were proud to collaborate with Take3 to deliver their Take3 message to the school and with Newtecpoly who produced the first bench ever for Plastic Police® (and the first bench using their Polywaste melter). The trial was supported by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage through its Sustainability Advantage Program.
Progressing from a Trial to a Regional Project
We soon realised we had set the wheels in motion for a program that wouldn’t stop at one school. We were receiving strong interest from businesses, schools and not-for-profits wanting to participate, collaborate and be part of an exciting and innovative new program. Our simple idea to make a difference in our community had been well received. Our program had the ability to empower individuals to act and change behaviours, in part due to the logistics solutions we developed and the opportunities for staff and community engagement.
The school trial confirmed we had developed a model that extended beyond simply recycling soft plastics at a single school. Plastic Police® is a collaboration, engagement and behaviour change program which continues to gain momentum allowing participants to collaborate, divert soft plastics from landfill, tap into local end markets and close the loop on the soft plastics collected. It currently operates in 3 schools, 3 councils and 11 businesses and we have continued to develop exciting local end market demand for products that can be manufactured from program collected soft plastics. We have undertaken one-off projects to further refine the program and demonstrate that valuable outcomes can be achieved across many levels. One of our trial participants described it as “the most effective sustainability programs project in terms of behaviour-change ever implemented within the organisation”.
The Story Continues
2019 sees our journey continue with a regional project in the Hunter and Central Coast underway, being delivered by Cross Connections with the support of the NSW EPA as part of the Waste Less Recycle More Initiative, our valued collaborators and program participants.
Plastic Police® is a local community engagement program to collect, recycle and reuse soft plastics, keeping it out of landfill and the environment. We partner with organisations, including businesses, councils and schools, to collect their soft plastics and turn it into new and useful products for local communities to enjoy. Those participating in the program are part of the solution and you can be, too. The Plastic Police® story is still being told and we can’t wait to share updates with you as we develop case studies and further collaborations that will allow the program to expand beyond the Hunter and Central Coast regions.
Remember, if you can scrunch it, you can save it!