Upping the stakes
Published on 06 August 2019
Australians are well accustomed to putting their plastic rubbish in recycle bins, however many of us are unaware of the quiet achievers in our community who are using their creativity, foresight and ingenuity to turn plastic waste into new products.
A positive disruptor to our plastic recycling system is GreenMoxie, a trailblazing local business in Malaga, owned and operated by eco-friendly entrepreneur Andrew Wytkin.
Andrew is a SA born mechanical engineer whose years working on his parent's Yalgoo sheep station instilled in him the importance of "waste not, want not". "My parents were very green". Farm-life had also honed his problem solving abilities. At the age of 18, Andrew was the first person in WA to develop a revolutionary upright sheep shearing cradle, a technology he sold to AWI (Australian Wool Innovation) and it's still in use today.
Andrew has over 30 years experience working in the fibre reinforced thermoplastics field here and in Chicago and Detroit. For the last 15 years he has focused on recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), sourced from water and cool drink bottles, plastic strapping and other packing products.
His Malaga micro-factory is the only place in the world that is manufacturing fibre reinforced thermoplastic posts and star pickets made from recycled PET that can be used in agriculture, horticulture, aqua-culture, mining, construction and the equine industry. Andrew invented the technology and built the machines as well as the software that regulates the process.
GreenMoxie's posts are the stars of the picket world, being made from recycled PET plastic, making them light-weight, strong and flexible, they will never rust or leach harmful chemicals and they are non conducting, so are safe to use on electric fences without insulators.
Andrew has covered all production bases without straying from his eco-ethics. No more imported steel star pickets or hard wood star posts from other countries. It's local and it's 100 per cent recycled.
"It's about creating a circular economy," Andrew explains. "We don't need to stop making all plastics. Take plastic strapping: it's a good product and serves us well. But after its been used once, we need to take it and make it into another product and then keep using it. That's the circular economy. It makes the system sustainable."
Inside the GreenMoxie factory, Andrew stands in front of roughly 20 tons of plastic strapping, standing three metres high. He's collected it from various Perth construction sites so it didn't need to be transported thousands of kilometres cross country, and it didn't need to use water to clean it. In fact, he says, 1% of construction site brick dust and other waste elements make this product stronger.
Andrew is quick to equate the logistics of his business. One cubic metre of plastic strapping equals 100 GreenMoxie posts, he says but WA is still sending 1000 tons of plastic strapping to landfill every year.
"Think of all the plastic in landfill that dates back to the 70s. Just imagine recovering that material, it's not going to break down anytime soon but it can become a viable resource. It can be mined and recycled because at some point in time it is going to be cheaper to dig up the old PET and reuse it."
We need to expand on how we use recycled materials, says Andrew.
A breakthrough recently occurred when Main Roads WA altered their tender specifications to stipulate that posts for planting saplings had to be made from recycled plastic that met the strength and durability requirements.
"If 40,000 trees were staked with GreenMoxie recycled posts, it would remove 80 tons of materials from the waste system - and the stakes would have a long life and could be reused - recycled - after the tree is established," Andrew said.
GreenMoxie and the WA Police Force have also established a successful partnership to recycle tons of disposable breathalyser straws and packaging collected from RBT operations for processing into quality, new plastic products that are infinitely recyclable and available for purchase and reuse.
The Breathalyser Straw Recycling Project now recycles over 87% of all metro breath tests in Perth and has diverted almost 16 tons of plastics from landfill.
It's clear we need other industry specifications to change to allow recycled plastics into more Australian markets. It goes way beyond posts, he says. The sporting industry, the car industry, safety equipment, lighting, insulation, building materials, the list goes on.
Today GreenMoxie is a financially and philosophically healthy company, but innovator and engineer Andrew says its growth could be exponential if government, business and community worked together to ensure our plastic waste is recycled, reused and regenerated for generations to come.