Biddabah Public School partners with Newtecpoly for bench made out of recycled soft plastic

Fantastic plastic: Stella Geres, relieving principal Josie Minett, Dylan Chock and program founder and parent Samantha Cross on the bench, which was installed during the school holidays and unveiled this week. Picture: Helen Gregory
Fantastic plastic: Stella Geres, relieving principal Josie Minett, Dylan Chock and program founder and parent Samantha Cross on the bench, which was installed during the school holidays and unveiled this week. Picture: Helen Gregory

FAMILIES at a Lake Macquarie school who spent the past year collecting chip packets, supermarket shopping bags and newspaper wrap have had their efforts rewarded, with a new bench made from 35,000 pieces of their previously non-recyclable plastic.

Biddabah Public School relieving principal Josie Minett said the “world-first” seat represented only a fraction of the approximately 283,000 pieces or 1.134 tonnes of soft plastic the school had collected over the past year, which would have otherwise gone to landfill.

“We’re very proud of it,” Ms Minett said of the bench, which was unveiled at the start of National Recycling Week. “There was a slow take up, but recycling has just become part of our students’ days now. We have pages and pages of testimonials from parents who are saying even their preschoolers know they need to collect plastic and bring it in to [their older children’s] school.

“It’s had a ripple effect throughout the community and in here, we’re now recycling batteries, phones and printer cartridges.”

The brains behind the initiative is Biddabah mother of three and sustainability consultant Samantha Cross, who realised last year her family produced an excess of soft plastic – the term for any plastic that can be scrunched into a ball – which cannot be placed in kerbside recycling, because it gets caught in machinery.

“People want to recycle soft plastic and can’t, but I knew new technology had come out that could make this possible,” Ms Cross said.

Echuca-based company Newtecpoly uses an innovative process called PolyWaste to recycle a wide variety and combination of plastics into products – the seat for Biddabah Public being the first.

Ms Cross has since established Plastic Police Partnerships, which asks businesses to financially support a specific school or schools within its operating area to roll out the recycling project, with the aim the school will receive a piece of furniture made from its collected materials.

“I have a yes attitude and if I can’t do something, I look for another way,” she said. “This emerging social enterprise has produced the first bench of its kind in Australia. We can all think about doing something differently today, which will have a greater impact tomorrow.”