UNSW students develop plastic reprocessing start-up

UNSW students develop plastic reprocessing start-up

Local councils and community centres could soon be able to reprocess their recycled plastic through a subscription based service.

UNSW business school students have won the 2019 Big Idea competition’s postgraduate category with their start-up idea Closed Loop – a local-level plastic waste recycling business.

Closed Loop aims to address plastic waste by renting plastic reprocessing machines to community centres and councils, giving the public an opportunity to upcycle their plastic.

According to UNSW graduate student Lauren Hayes, the team acquired an open-source reprocessing machine from Precious Plastics, a global community for plastic waste.

“The greatest way to have impact is to reach out to community centres and the government,” Ms Hayes said.

“We are working to place a reprocessing machine in every community centre in Sydney. We are also in discussion with numerous councils and looking to put a machine in their space as well.”

Ms Hayes said rather than recycling plastic, the machine reprocesses it into new products.

“In terms of what the processing machine actually does, is it different to a recycle bin. Reprocessing is when recycled plastic re-enters the world as new materials – rather than being just re-used, reduced, recycled,” she said.

“We take recycled plastic and it goes into the reprocessing machine. What it does is that it can produce new products such as bowls, iPhone cases, pot plants and coasters – depending on which moulds are used in the machine.”

The process requires uncontaminated plastic that’s been cleaned and sorted, depending on various factors such as grade and colour. The material is then shredded into chips and transferred to a 3D printer.

“The community centre will decide what customised moulds they would want to create out of the reprocessed plastic,” Ms Hayes said.

“As part of the subscription service, the community centre can request up to three customised moulds. That’s where our consulting service comes in.”

Ms Hayes said the next step for the project is to raise capital funding.

“We’ve pitched our idea and are looking to raise funds through a GoFundMe campaign. We might also join an incubator to raise capital, as we want to ultimately expand Australia-wide,” she said.

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