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The Melbourne Business Empowering A Radical Global Recycling Movement!

Studio Visit

The Precious Plastic model is a circular waste universe with outposts all around the globe. Started in the Netherlands in 2013 by Dutch designer Dave Haakens, it was originally a small scale recycling project, where post-consumer plastic waste could be repurposed into new products.

Now, Precious Plastic is an international community of micro-recyclers located all around the world, each of whom conduct their own recycling – and empower others to do the same.

We recently visited the Precious Plastic Melbourne site in Nunawading, run by Kayla and Piers Mossuto. By providing tools and plastic recycling knowledge to other businesses and individuals, their mission is to spread the word about circular plastic recycling, and get as many people involved as possible!

21st February, 2022

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Sasha Gattermayr
Monday 21st February 2022

‘The focus here is very much about empowering the community to recycle plastic themselves. Through facilitating the set-up of micro-recycling workspaces, we’re enabling our customers to manufacture their own products, right here in Australia.’ – Kayla Mossuto

Precious Plastic is an international network of micro-recyclers, who share research, knowledge and machinery through open-source information. People, groups and organisations all around the world have signed up to be a part of the grassroots movement in some way. Mostly, people get involved by starting a local plastic collection point to re-purpose waste, or running a machine shop that builds parts and moulds for other agents in the recycling ecosystem, or, offering a service that executes the actual recycling process.

Melburnians Kayla and Piers Mossuto combined the latter two to create Precious Plastics Melbourne – their very own closed-loop plastic recycling facility in Nunawading.

From these headquarters, Kayla and Piers combine machinery production, prototyping and manufacturing to show new potential micro-recyclers how to use the systems themselves. Basically, they want to make it as easy as possible for anyone to incorporate a small-scale recycling system into their business model or creative practice.

To do this, Kayla and Piers’ business encompasses four main pillars: machinery, prototyping, manufacturing and retail. Let’s go through them one by one to really break down how it works!

Originally using open-source plans available through the Precious Plastic database, the Messutos and their industrial designer Blake Witherowe build and sell the machinery needed to recycle post-consumer plastics into new products. Now they have developed their own machinery, which they sell under their own company, Zephyr Bros. They purchase all the parts through local suppliers to keep the supply chains transparent. The customer base for this facet of the business are mainly schools, universities, small businesses and community groups.

‘The focus here is very much about empowering the community to recycle plastic themselves,’ explains Kayla. ‘Through facilitating the set-up of micro-recycling workspaces, we’re enabling our customers to manufacture their own products, right here in Australia.’

When it comes to prototyping, Kayla and Piers can help small business or independent creatives to incorporate recycled plastics into their products. Have you seen Ella Reweti’s beautiful yellow plastic plates? These were made in collaboration with Precious Plastic Melbourne, who helped with industrial design, mould-making and even manufacturing.

The busiest part of the business is the manufacturing side, which sees Precious Plastic Melbourne engaged to actually manufacture another company or organisation’s designs in-house. This is a natural extension of the prototyping design service.

The most traditional arm to Precious Plastic Melbourne business is their retail shop, where they sell products made from recycled plastic. From their own recycled plastic, they make jumbo bobby pins, a Jenga-type blocks game, carabiners, soap containers and even sheets of recycled plastic (which can be used as tiles!).

In addition to all of the above, Kayla and Piers also supply recycled plastic in shredded pieces to customers who have bought machinery to start their own recycled plastics projects.

The whole concept is multifarious and varied (and sometimes complex!), but it represents a completely radical disruption of traditional manufacturing processes. Rather than concentrating production to an industry, the Precious Plastic model decentralises manufacturing and empowers individuals and small groups to do it themselves. This also necessitates a greater understanding of the manufacturing process and industry in general – which is key to shifting to a more sustainable and transparent supply chain!

‘We’re reinventing new opportunities for innovation and industrial symbiosis – and we certainly hope we can empower and inspire people and organisations to follow our lead,’ says Kayla.

She also speaks of the grassroots nature of the sustainability movement, and how essential this level of community organisation is to the widespread success of the business. ‘We’re watching this amazing, collaborative and positive eco-system flourish right before our eyes, full of changemakers working towards creating a circular economy for plastics.’

Of this shared mission, Kayla underscores the importance of education and empowerment.

‘We need to redefine plastic waste as a valuable resource, which can be recovered and returned to the material cycle. We want to empower organisations to move from our resource draining linear system, to a progressive circular economy for plastic, so that we can keep this ubiquitous commodity in use. We hope to encourage people to work with plastic waste for its unexplored, untapped beauty.’

Consider us inspired!

Learn more about Precious Plastic Melbourne here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net