Inside the local project turning single-use plastic waste into objects of beauty

An all-in-one local plastic recycler and manufacturer is helping hospitality businesses in our area transform trash to treasure with a City of Sydney grant.

From bottle lids to plastic tags, there are a lot of products that aren’t easily recycled.

For hospitality businesses the volume of plastic waste they generate can be overwhelming and it’s become worse since the pandemic, says David McGuinness from Bourke Street Bakery.

“Our milk supplier used to take back empty milk bottles, but they stopped when Covid hit,” he said.

A creative collaboration between Defy Design, a local recycled plastic manufacturer, and hospitality businesses including Bourke Street Bakery is helping close the loop on plastic waste.

This food safe chopping board is made out of plastic waste collected at Bourke Street Bakery. Photo: Abril Felman / City of Sydney

The project is supported by a City of Sydney grant and sees plastic waste from bars, micro-breweries and bakeries in our area diverted from landfill.

The plastic is collected by Defy Design, locally processed and remade into new products – all at its facility in Marrickville.

“We want to demonstrate how valuable rubbish can be and show it has no place in landfill. Recycling is not the answer to all waste problems. But ideally all products in Australia should be made from recycled material,” Defy Design’s Marne Dingwall said.

Key to the project is identifying each business’s problem plastic waste streams and brainstorming with businesses what could be done.

Will Thompson, director of Defy Design, David McGuinness co-owner Bourke Street Bakery, and Marne Dingwall, designer at Defy Design, show their recycled milk bottle chopping board. Photo: Abril Felman / City of Sydney

“We found that businesses are keen to go green but often don’t have the right information or resources to get started,” she said.

“We specialise in those hard to recycle plastics and that’s the thing about small-scale recyclers – we do have capacity to recycle things and do it locally.”

Those problem milk bottles from Bourke Street Bakery’s Alexandria and Surry Hills stores are now being made into food safe chopping boards sold in-store.

Milk bottles from Bourke Street Bakery with the Defy Design products they become. Photo: Abril Felman / City of Sydney

Other participants in the project include Yulli’s Brewery, Ciccone & Sons and Wildflower in Redfern. Since the project started, 830kg of plastic has been diverted from landfill.

Defy Design is made up of all product designers. The products they produce using the plastic waste are visually beautiful. In the Bourke Street Bakery chopping boards the little pieces of shredded plastic have become coloured surface patterns.

Marne says that is one of the reasons people love them – they can see what they might once have been.

All Defy Design products are designed to circular economy principles: they are easy to disassemble and avoid glues and other elements that can make the products harder to recycle.

“Hopefully one of our products has been cherished for years, but when it does reach end of life we can take it back and transform it again.” And the cycle continues.

Defy Design received a City of Sydney environmental performance grant – innovation. Got a creative idea that could benefit our community? Our grants are open for applications until 5pm Tuesday 27 September.

Posted . Last updated .

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