While you pour that last drop of milk into your cereal or coffee, wash the bottle and throw it in the recycling bin, what do you do with the plastic bottle cap?
In most major centers in New Zealand, or anywhere in the country where there really is curbside recycling, milk bottles are generally recyclable, but plastic caps are not. The same goes for soft drink lids or any other small plastic cap.
In some cases, these items are made from recyclable plastic, but they are too small or light. They can get stuck in recycling machines, or they end up slipping through holes in the first step of the sorting process and still go to the landfill.
This gap in industrial recycling has led over the years to creative initiatives and business ideas, including a company in Hāwera that shreds bottle caps into plastic granules, which are then made into pipes and garbage bags.
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Today, a group of high school students from Tauranga found their own little solution.
Realizing how many household items have non-recyclable lids, teens began to think about ways to reuse that plastic into a lifelong product, in order to reduce the number of items going to landfills.
The five students of Ōtūmoetai College participate in the Junior Achievement program and have started a business that turns plastic bottle caps into earrings.
Their company – Dune – launched on Instagram and will appear in the Mount Maunganui markets next month.
Meg Downing – the “head of excitement” – said sustainability was at the heart of their concerns when it came to thinking about a business idea.
“For us, it was something that we thought could be really marketable and something that [people] would also look, because plastic earrings are a trend, but they’re just plastic, ”the 17-year-old said. Thing.
The other members of the team are Fergus Sutherland, 17, Hope Jobe, 17, Bethan Gilbert, 17 and Lydia Prentice, 18.
The students started their business by collecting as many plastic bottle caps as they could – at home and at school as well as from friends and family.
“Plus, the local cafes were really involved in this, which is great. So we get a lot from them, ”Downing said.
The students also did some beach cleanups in Mount Maunganui, searching the sand and dunes for plastic and picking up litter they could use, as well as litter they couldn’t.
“Unfortunately, it’s not about bottle caps, but it’s still a good way to help the community – by removing waste from the dunes, which is our name,” Downing said.
They then took their Precious plastic tauranga – a workspace, drop-off point and studio in Tauranga’s CBD where non-recyclable plastic items like milk bottle lids, bread labels and take-out containers are turned into useful new products.
Downing said all of their freshly cleaned bottle caps have been shredded. The shards were then melted into solid plastic discs.
RAM3D, a metal 3D printing company in Tauranga, then created metal stamps that students could hand press into the plastic discs to cut out the shape of the earrings.
The five students have invested $ 75 each in the business and plan to sell the earrings for $ 15.99 a pair.
There are no big dreams of fame and fortune, Downing said, they just want to make enough money to run the business, “so everyone can keep learning.”
“I felt like making money was probably a major concern,” she said with a laugh.
“We were more worried about doing a really useful business. “
Catherine de Monchy of Precious Plastic Tauranga said it was a “great initiative”.
“I was really excited when the students reached out. Our Precious Plastic workshop is really meant to be an engagement platform, so as much as we are developing it into a social business model, the main goal is to engage with the audience and that was a perfect example. of how we can relate to people that way.
Any member of the public can bring their own plastic lids to the workshop (items excluded from recycling are especially welcome), said de Monchy, “and we turn them into products, into creative outings like what these young people have. made”.
De Monchy makes key chains, fridge magnets, pens, clocks – all from plastic items that would otherwise be in the tip.
Sam Fellows, sustainability and waste manager at Tauranga City Council, was also happy to hear about the new business venture from destūmoetai College students.
“Reduction and reuse is even better than recycling because it uses less energy,” he said.