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Four Australian companies are innovating the ways to end plastic waste

Sydney-based environmental artist Elizabeth West wrote this inspiring note after she received our refillable laundry powder:

Environmental philosopher Timothy Morton refers to things like the changing climate, resource depletion and the plastic problem as ‘hyperobjects’ – they are too big to be comprehended. On the other hand, the small, incremental and measurable change is exactly what is necessary for us to feel empowered, in order to respond to these ‘hyperobjects’ and to redesign the systems, products and services to tackle these ‘hyperobjects’.

It’s the incremental improvement that counts. It’s the effort from all of us doing our part, collectively, that will revolutionise our linear economy model. This week, we are excited to share with you how some of our fellow Australian companies are working towards ending plastic waste ‘hyperobjects’, and are putting their marks on making a difference for the environment. 

Seabin Project

What is Seabin Project?

Standing by their motto, ‘cleaning up our oceans one marina at a time’, the Seabin Project captures upstream debris with their ‘seabins’ installed at marinas, ports and waterways, before the debris enter the oceans.

How does it work?

As its name suggests, a Seabin is a bin installed on the surface of the ocean. It captures everything floating in the water – plastic bottles, paper, oil, fuel and detergent. Once the ‘bin bag’ is full, it then gets replaced by a dedicated rubbish collector. 


The Seabin Project is now operating in 52 countries and removing over 1.7 tonnes of marine debris daily. Currently 46 Seabins operating in Australia. In Sydney, 20 Seabins are being piloting to test out a full service package to a city – Seabin’s first city pilot program in the world. These 20 units in the Sydney Harbour is expected to remove 28 tons of microplastics, marine litter and plastic fibres in 12 months.


What is Returnr?

Returnr, introduced by KeepCup co-founder Jamie Forsyth, is a reusable takeaway container network that uses 100% recyclable materials. Returnr is partnering with takeaway and food delivery services to reduce the usage of single-use packaging.

How does it work?

The Returnr process is simple, and all it requires for the customer is:

  1. Order food from a participating restaurant or cafe.
  2. Pay a $6 deposit fee for a Returnr cup or bowl – to replace the single-use takeaway food container.
  3. When finished, return the container to the partner venue and get the deposit back.


Returnr launched on a trial basis in Melbourne in 2018. There has been over purportedly 85,000 single-use plastic items saved from landfill.

Plastic Collective

What is Plastic Collective?

Plastic Collective works with vulnerable communities in the remote coastal regions, and provide them solutions to turn plastic waste in these regions into a recycling profit. It empowers these communities financially, but also ensures the marine debris collected from the ocean will be of good use, rather than ending up in the environment again.

The Plastic Collective has built these plastic recycling micro-enterprises across Australia and Asia. They are also in partnership with part of Coca-Cola South Pacific and Far East and TK Maxx UK. 

How does it work?

The communities involved with Plastic Collective, are provided with technologies, training, machinery and support to develop profitable recycling opportunities.

They use a recycling machine created by founder Louise Hardman, known as the 'Shruder'. The Shruder is designed and manufactured in Coffs Harbour. It is purposely designed for remote locations and can be easily transported to the plastic waste collection points. Everything about the Shruder is intended to be easy, with it being powered by rains or solar, has a long life and is easily maintained. It has the capacity to recycle around 25 tonnes of plastic each year.


According to Plastic Collective website, they are working with 15 remote regions across Australia and Asia. For people like you and I, we can also pledge to help fund these micro-enterprises and save between 53kg and 212kg of plastic waste a year, depending on your pledge.


What is Licella?

Based in North Sydney, Licella is a biotechnology company taking plastic recycling to a higher level. Licella chemically recycles end-of-life plastic back into oil to make new plastic. When the new plastic becomes no longer recyclable, it can go back to Licella to be recycled chemically again.

How does it work?

Licella created the Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor platform (Cat-HTR platform), which works in a process similar to that of a commercial-sized pressure-cooker, to cause chemical transformation. The process forces the plastic to form recycled oil and gases in just 20 minutes.  


As we all know, they are only so many times you can recycle plastics, if not mixed with virgin plastic. Licella’s recycling process diverts non-recyclable plastic from landfill. The Cat-HTR platform allows them to create renewable biocrude with a >80% carbon intensity reduction. Compared to the Waste to Energy process, it uses 45% less CO2, equivalent to taking 5,983 cars off the road.

When transforming the biomass to power the platform, It also uses non-edible crops and agricultural residues and trash. It also utilises the water within the biomass, without extra hydrogen, saving a huge amount of complexity, cost and greenhouse gas emissions.

Anett Petrovics