29 August 2022, Apia, SAMOA: What do you get when you mix single-use plastic waste and waste from the timber industry? A perfectly packaged practical product! One would think the mixing of two major waste streams would result in more waste, however, here is proof that it’s not waste, rather a useful resource and that too, the very first of its kind in the world– handmade recycled waterproof USB flash drives!
The European Union funded, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme implemented Pacific Waste Management (PacWastePlus) programme identified and invested in 500 PacWastePlus branded USBs handmade from recycled plastic bottle caps, with reclaimed wood veneer packaging as a commitment towards using a sustainable programme produced collaterals.
“Initially, we were going to procure USBs made from bamboo until we discovered Zero Plastics Australia, and then made the decision to choose recycled plastic and to support their work on recycling”, said the PacWastePlus Programme Manager, Mr Bradley Nolan.
“We were excited to invest in a product that promoted a sustainable solution for recycling plastic bottle caps into innovative USB sticks as it links to our efforts to encourage the circular economy concept here in the Pacific and address the recyclables waste stream”, added Mr Nolan.
The PacWastePlus Programme manager said that they have contributed to keeping 3000 plastic bottle caps out of landfills or ending up as litter in the environment and perhaps while it may be an insignificant number, it was a start and more importantly demonstrated the practical use of recycled plastic and discarded wooden veneer, products that would have otherwise ended up in landfills, but instead were used to create innovative product and packaging that contributes towards sustainable waste management solutions.
“Six plastic bottle caps were used to make one USB and what an excellent way to show others what can be done with what we call waste”, said Mr Nolan.
Mr Nolan added that these popular USBs are being used to disseminate programme-produced resources and publications to participating countries' stakeholders during mission travels, meetings and during key national and international events and workshops instead of distributing printed resources.
The Zero Plastics director Mr Adam Slater, who designs and produces innovative products with his partner Ms Ashlee Slater, commented that this was a perfect example of how a massive difference can be made from something as simple as a conversation.
“We couldn't be happier to work with the PacWastePlus team, and we want to make a huge personal thanks to their Communications Officer for the wonderful back and forth chats and design ideas over months as his energy was amazing and we have appreciated everything he had done in his power to make this possible”, said Mr Slater.
“This journey was an amazing experience for us as it will enable us to grow and market our recycling capabilities through this opportunity provided by the PacWastePlus to purchase our products and they have legitimately helped a family own grassroots business get their name out to the world as a growing business committed to sustainable waste solutions”, added Mr Slater.
With a broken ankle, two broken injection machines, a busted mould, lockdowns, and day-care being cancelled, things were a real struggle initially, however, the Zero Plastic team were not going to let a few snapped ligaments, loose wires, and tantrums stop them from recycling.
“Before we had the idea of creating a recycled plastic USB, we weren’t sure if it was something that could be done, melting plastic to 180 degrees into the mould, we thought the heat was sure to destroy the electronics but here we are after hours of R&D we have made it possible”, said Mr Slater.
Mr Slater explained that their USBs contain around 6 bottles caps each and while normal USBs are glued into their plastic surround, Zero Plastics USB devices are moulded around the electric components and are available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB in a variety of mixed colours, and with each one being unique where branding requests can be accommodated like logos or slogans.
“While we do not directly collect the plastic lids, we partner with Crafty Chooks in Alfredton who are the local Lids4Kids collection point for Ballarat, in Australia but all lids used by us must be clean and have all inserts removed,” added Mr Slater.
Because of his passion for recycling and the environment Mr Slater with a partnership with Southern Ocean Environmental Link takes his manufacturing process into schools to educate and involve students on how plastic waste can be turned into resources and protect the environment.
Zero Plastics produces a variety of other products including clip boards, pens, pots, jewellery, coasters, mobile phone holders, and carabiners amongst other items made from recyclable plastics and has also expanded with a new higher capacity machine that can be used to produce larger items such as plastic beams, chairs, and other types of furniture.
The Pacific – European Union (EU) Waste Management Programme, PacWastePlus, is a 72-month programme funded by the EU and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to improve regional management of waste and pollution sustainably and cost-effectively. Priority waste streams include hazardous wastes (specifically asbestos, E-waste and healthcare waste), solid wastes (specifically recyclables, organic waste, disaster waste and bulky waste) and related aspects of wastewater.
Countries participating in the PacWastePlus programme are: Cook Islands, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.