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Moulding The Future For Plastic Waste Recycling

Moulding The Future For Plastic Waste Recycling

Wellington, May 8, 2003 -- A Christchurch company that has recycled 74 tonnes of its customers’ waste - equivalent to local authorities collecting and recycling 1.85 million two-litre plastic milk containers - today scooped two environmental awards at the annual Plastics NZ conference.

Talbot Plastics, a technical engineering moulder supplying plastic components to whiteware and electronics companies is now reusing the more than 74 tonnes of waste - all previously dumped - in its own products. The seed for the Talbot Plastics initiative was planted a year ago when Plastics NZ challenged members at its 2002 annual conference to reduce their waste by 50 per cent before its next conference. Today the company will be presented with the awards at the 2003 Plastics NZ conference in Wellington for not only meeting the challenge but also taking it much further. Also receiving an environmental award is Auckland-based expanded polystyrene manufacturer, Long Plastics (Auckland) Ltd, which also reduced its waste by 50 per cent (a total of 12.4 tonnes) and in addition increased sales of the company’s Form–Flow product, used to reduce the waste, by 24 per cent.

Talbot Plastics Managing Director Steve Wilson and Factory Manager Owen Hesp quickly took up the challenge, discussing it on their flight back to Christchurch from the conference. “We decided that rather than just pay lip service to the whole environmental thing we should do it properly,” Steve Wilson says. “Though we initially did it for feel-good reasons, there has been a big financial payback for customers and our company alike.” Owen Hesp undertook the recycling drive and found outlets - eventually - for all the company’s packaging. This milestone achieved, he went on to find out what Talbot Plastics customers, who also mould plastics, do with their sprue, runners, and rejects; and discovered that they did not recycle these – either for commercial/logistical reasons, or because of standards that didn’t allow a percentage of recycled plastic in their own product range. So Owen Hesp arranged to progressively take delivery of plastic waste produced by Talbot Plastics customers - using multi-trip containers that take product from their factory to customers, and returning them full of product to be re-ground and reused. As a result, Talbot Plastics now processes five different types of plastic waste, processing around six tonnes per month of material previously heading straight to the landfill.

Steve Wilson gives an example of the benefits of the initiative for one company, “We established contact with a Rakaia-based company that had produced a lot of polycarbonate coin trays many years ago (using another injection moulding company). We came to hear that they had a lot of old stock in storage – eventually destined for disposal. We arranged to have all the trays re-ground and reprocessed the material into a non-structural, non-visible part – avoiding nearly a tonne going into landfill, giving a customer of ours some savings, and some financial return to the Rakaia company. Even the old cartons were fed into the recycle stream.”

Steve Wilson says the most exciting moment in the initiative occurred when the company realised hidden financial spin-offs from its recycling efforts. Over $250,000 a year in savings to be precise, most of which is passed on to customers. This amount has been saved through the substitution of six tonnes a month of material with an average value of $3.45 a kg, avoided landfill costs, and reduced re-processing costs. One of Talbot’s biggest customers, Steve Maunsell of Fisher & Paykel Appliances in Mosgiel, says, “Fisher & Paykel has a real culture that says dumping is bad and there is a lot of resistance to doing this. We are limited with using recycled material by international standards, hence we are delighted with Talbot’s finding another solution.” Plastics New Zealand (the trade organisation for plastics) Environmental Affairs Manager, Carolyn Cox, says Talbots is a fantastic example of the pragmatic changes and positive environmental impact plastics companies can make. “Under our NZ Plastics Sustainability Initiative, Talbot Plastics and 55 other plastics companies have made a commitment to educating and advising customers on product design and selection based on best environmental practice. It is brilliant to see our companies finding these simple but hugely effective business practices.”

Talbot Plastics’ Steve Wilson says the company is now proactive in taking long-term sustainability into account when designing products. Previously the end disposal of a product was never considered. Now when Talbot Plastics designs new products they question clients throughout the product design and supply process, from decisions on whether or not to co-mould or how to phase out a discontinued product. With so many tonnes of material now being recycled each year as a result of their actions, Steve Wilson says, “You can’t half do it, we are definitely more interactive now and realise that you can make an impact. Reducing waste is not just a pointless feel good thing.”

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