Central Ringwood Community Centre (CRCC) are a not-for-profit organisation providing a diverse variety of programs and services, such as adult education courses, recreational programs, health and wellbeing programs and support groups.
Committed to helping their local community move toward a greener, more sustainable future, CRCC developed the Bedford Park Community Garden (BPCG), a free-forage, organic, permaculture-designed public community space that promotes and educates on permaculture gardening and low carbon, sustainable practices.
As the regional coordinator for Lids4Kids Eastern Victoria (a community-driven organisation with a mission to divert 'tricky to recycle' discarded plastic bottle lids from landfill), one of the many sustainability-focused activities occurring at CRCC was the collection of bottle caps for recycling.
CRCC had an established working relationship with Precious Plastic Melbourne (PPM), with the vast majority of plastic lids collected through the centre heading to the PPM workspace for remanufacturing, and additionally had collaborated in the development of educational programs for local schools.
To demonstrate a tangible, hyper-local use for their ubiquitous waste stream, CRCC wanted to explore avenues for upcycling the bottle caps into onsite structures, incorporating leading-edge circular technologies into the construction of their facilities.
In 2021, an opportunity presented itself to apply for funding through Sustainability Victoria through their Packaging Investment Support program. So with a high regard for their dedication to sustainable practices and innovation, CRCC established a successful grant partnership with Precious Plastic Melbourne.
Upon settling on a versatile Z-shaped block design, we commenced the R&D phase of the project. Producing objects with a large density on manual smaller-scale equipment can be incredibly challenging, so refining not only the product mould, but the production process were critical to the success of the project.
Simultaneously, lids were delivered progressively from Lids4Kids Eastern Victoria. As such a large quantity was requried to complete the project, Lids4Kids Western Vic / Geelong contributed to the collection and delivery of plastic lids to assist in reaching the required volume.
The lids were then granulated by the PPM team, UV stabiliser options were explored and applied (to ensure durability within an outdoor environment), and after 3 product mould iterations and many adjustments to the manufacturing method, production was able to commence.
91,500 lids were used to create 200 x Zephyr Blocks, which PPM delivered to Bedford Park Community Garden. As sizable structures would need to comply with strict council urban design guidelines, and with a fairly tight project timeline, the BPCG team opted to use the blocks in the creation of garden beds, raised garden troughs and a potting table.
Department Of Justice participants worked with Bedford Park in the construction of the structures, and finally, before the final touch was added - a recycled plastic park bench, the result of a collaboration between PPM and Ranges TEC.
For the purpose of contributing to ongoing impact, PPM have released the Zephyr Block mould design, additionally making the mould available for purchase to allow for project replication across a wide variety of potential applications.
200 x Zephyr Blocks were produced, which were used to create:
• 3 x Garden Beds
• 2 x Raised Garden Troughs
• 1 x Potting Table
• Leftover bricks were additionally used in the creation of a variety of other items throughout the garden
• 91,500 discarded lids diverted from landfill
• 878.4kg CO2 emissions savings
Importantly, not only was this waste diverted from landfill, it also prevented the need for use of virgin (new) materials.
Lessons and success
Notably, the full production run was produced using our Zephyr Bros. Pro-Series Extruder. Another critical outcome is project legacy - the ability to monitor long-term stability within the environment. Weather-testing provides further opportunities to measure off-gassing and the effectiveness of UV additive in product preservation.
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"Central Ringwood Community Centre is passionate about Sustainability, so it was such a privilege to collaborate with Precious Plastic Melbourne on this innovative project. Striving to create useful products that will see larger quantities of surplus lid supply recycled, in a functional, and beautiful way. We are particularly impressed by the perseverance of PPM, in combating the complex issues that arose when processing plastic of different colours and types in a significantly larger mould than they've previously worked with, while continuing to strive for the highest quality end products. Keep pushing those boundaries PPM, we can't wait to see what you come up with next!"
Program Officer, Central Ringwood Community Centre