A new Mount Gambier-based plastic recycling company has delivered its first outdoor furniture products to a local school after months of testing.

Key points:

  • Ecoplas Australia uses plastic destined for regional landfill
  • Only a handful of Australian companies use recycled plastic to make furniture
  • The business is looking at making other products like fence droppers and bricks

Ecoplas Australia uses milk bottles collected from about 30 local businesses — as well as damaged wheelie bins — for its creations.

The business has already saved about 40,000 plastic milk bottles from landfill.

Owner Willie Van Niekerk said he was nervous when he started the business late last year.

“But I was really impressed by how quickly people got on board and were really keen and eager to be part of the process,” Mr Van Niekerk said.

“To the point where there’s a business in Robe that collects milk bottles for us as well.”

Owner Willie Van Niekerk at Ecoplas Australia says they have received a constant stream of waste to use.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

He said a big challenge for recycling in regional areas was the cost of transporting the waste.

“We’ve probably done more than 100 already. So there’s a lot. It’s a constant stream coming in.”

Crushed damaged wheelie bins are the “secret ingredient” in Ecoplas Australia’s “ideal” recycled plastic mix.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

Mr Van Niekerk said his business was one of just four in the country using recycled plastic to manufacture furniture.

“Probably the best known of them is Replas … but most of them have been around for about a decade … I’m the new kid on the block,” he said.

Mr Van Niekerk said a key challenge for the business was creating products people wanted.

It’s taken four months of testing to achieve consistent results.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

“I think — and I’ve spoken to some of the recyclers in Adelaide as well — the challenge is actually making it a full-circular economy and selling the product as well,” he said.

Furniture is just the start for Ecoplas Australia, with the business testing the production of bollards, hose fittings and large plastic bricks.

Mr Van Niekerk said he hoped for state government support through a grant program for recycling manufactures.

“If we can expand, one of our products we want to pursue is fence droppers which can be used locally,” he said.

Crushed plastic is heated up to about 220 degrees in the extruder before being pushed into a mould.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

Schoolkids the first to get a seat at the new tables

Glencoe Central Primary School students are among the first in the region to use the outdoor furniture.

Mr Van Niekerk said it took four months of testing to perfect the manufacturing process before he could send the furniture to the school this week.

“We were very excited with the order, and we’re sending them two kids’ picnic tables and one bench,” he said.

“Between the three products, there was a total of eight wheelie bins and 1,519 milk bottles used to make those.”

Glencoe Central Primary School students sit at their new picnic tables.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

Glencoe Central Primary School student leader Mackenzie Biggins said students were interested in how the new furniture was made.

“We’re a rubbish-free school. We’re always trying out best to pick up rubbish where we see it,” she said.

“So to find out about this was really good for us.”

Mount Gambier based Ecoplas Australia recycles plastic milk bottles.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

Fellow student leader Sam Haase said he learnt about how much plastic the furniture had stopped from going to landfill.

“It does make me feel good because it’s saving heaps of animals and all the land that’s going towards it.”