The Dirt Company had committed to taking accountability for any unavoidable waste created by their organisation. The company, who specialise in eco laundry liquid, were seeking a responsible solution for their reusable Laundry Refill Packs upon reaching end-of-life - over time, the well-travelled Refill Packs begin to lose durability and no longer pass quality control standards, and thus need to be 'retired'.
Initially, the retired packs were sent to a global recycling corporation, however The Dirt Company weren't content with this as a genuinely responsible solution due to a lack of control over what would happen to their waste materials. And with many recycling initiatives utilising overseas manufacturing services, additionally, The Dirt Company were determined to implement a local solution to ensure a minimal carbon footprint.
Driven to see their plastic waste recycled with purpose, The Dirt Company commissioned Precious Plastic Melbourne to provide a sustainable, hyper-local and hyper-transparent solution to their waste problem.
For The Dirt Company, developing a circular model through the creation of products from their own waste materials meant that they could reduce the negative impacts that come with using virgin materials. So it was established early on that their waste stream should be given a new life as a functional product.
Initial conversations were focused on the material itself - the Refill Packs are composed of a soft plastic pouch (which is traditionally hard-to-recycle) with a spout and lid. The Dirt Company approached us expecting a feasible solution for the spout and lid only. However, our team were determined to assist Dirt in developing a solution that would enable use of the Refill Pack in its entirety.
After undertaking in-house R&D testing, we established a method that would allow us to recycle the whole product. And the result - a highly durable Machine Wash Scoop, which would be remanufactured entirely from the end-of-life Refill Packs - no virgin materials, no additives.
With tooling complete (a nifty double-mould, created to reduce production time) and delivery of the retired Refill Packs to our workspace, manufacturing commenced. The Refill Packs were shredded before being injection moulded into their new incarnation. To ensure maximum sustainability, any sprues, offcuts, or product rejects were re-recycled, creating additional scoops.
What was once packaging, was now an extremely robust, 100% recycled scoop, ready for its final trip to laundries around Australia, ready to be used over and over again.
Recycled products produced for The Dirt Company as of June 2022:
• 6000 x Machine Drum Wash Scoops
With a successful proof of concept, The Dirt Company have additionally ordered our Zephyr Bros Pro-Series Injection Machine and a Granulator, taking the recycling and production of their Machine Wash Scoops in-house.
Volume of waste recycled
We've recycled approximately 75kg of plastic waste through this project (as of June 2022). This equates roughly to 3940 retired Refill Packs, including the packaging body, spout and lid.
Importantly, not only was this waste diverted from landfill, it also prevented the need for use of virgin (new) materials.
Lessons and success
Recycling soft plastics through injection moulding is notoriously difficult and labour intensive. Despite this, the Precious Plastic Melbourne team have made significant headway in mitigating the challenges of working with this material, and continue to refine processing methods to further increase efficiency.
After the launch of their new product, The Dirt Company went on to sell out of their first production run within just 3 days.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Working with Precious Plastic Melbourne was such a great experience. Not because the job was easy, it was actually fairly complicated. Because they were open to workshopping, trouble-shooting and problem solving to our curly brief with us as part of the same team, which we loved. We still turn to them for advice when we get stuck, and love watching their business grow just as the demand for solutions to the plastic problem does."
Founder of The Dirt Company