Louise Hardman’s Shruder invention recycles plastic cleaned from the ocean

Louise Hardman is a water lover, she loves everything related to water, be it leisure, sport or work.

It was her specialization in sea turtles and birds while working as a zoologist that ultimately led her to clean up plastic from the world’s largest body of water.

“It wasn’t until 2016, when I started the business, that I was finally able to put it into practice.”

collect the garbage

Removing plastic pollution from waterways is not a new concept, but making recovered plastics commonplace is.

Ms. Hardman focuses her efforts on regional and remote communities in Australia and the Pacific Islands.

“The concept is that we want to do recycling programs that are mobile,” Ms. Hardman said.

“I would work with communities, remote regional communities to set up plastic waste recycling programs.”

Residents of Louise Hardman and Evans Head clean up the waterways in northern New South Wales.(ABC TV: Moving to the Country/Mark O’Leary)

pride in work

Miimi Aboriginal Corporation, based in the town of Bowraville in New South Wales, was one such community.

Company director Tricia Walker commissioned Ms Hardman to set up a mobile recycling station to help create a source of income and jobs.

Shipping container with recycling machines inside and woman looking inside.
The Shruder was installed in a community in northern New South Wales. (ABC TV: Moving to the countryside)

“My experience over many years is that many of our young people have lost their connection to the country and I think it’s imperative that they go back to the country and recognize the environments that exist, and they can protect them,” Ms Walker said. .

The creation of the mobile recycling container took several years.

Each container is different and specially designed for the specific needs of the community.

They have multiple components and may include an extruder, shredder, and scoop.

Image contains 3 small images of old plastic bottles in a bin bag, plastic being pushed through a machine and a hand holding pellets
Mobile recycling centers turn plastic into pellets ready to be made again. (ABC TV: Moving to the countryside)

They turn hard waste plastic into pellets, ready for manufacturing.

Ms Hardman said she also provided training on plastics identification so customers can determine what materials could be used in manufacturing.

Woman showing recycling poster.  3 men and a woman in casual clothes watch and listen.
Louise Hardman trains people to use the mobile recycling center.(ABC TV: Moving to the Country/Mark O’Leary)

Ms Walker said the arrival of the first recycling container was a source of immense pride for the Miimi Aboriginal Corporation.

“I love it because I saw these kids growing up in this valley,” she said.

“They’re good boys, they’re good kids, and they have a lot of respect and they’re pretty knowledgeable.”

Ms. Hardman also helped make contacts in the manufacturing world.

Ms Walker said the knowledge was invaluable.

“So she has all the contacts and willingly will help us through the initial stages and find us suppliers,” Ms Walker said.

The program, Plastic Collective, is now a family business run by Ms. Hardman with her brother and sister.

He currently works with 15 communities in the southern hemisphere.

It also resells “plastic credits” to large organizations.

“The aim was to help the most vulnerable and remote communities in the world whose lives and environments were being destroyed by plastic waste and where litter collection is mostly non-existent and plastic pollution is rampant,” Ms. Hardman said.

Resell the new resource

The sale of extruded plastic pellets is not without problems.

Convincing manufacturers to use “non-virgin” plastic can be difficult.

Different melting and cooling times can be a sticking point.

Man in wetsuit walking along the beach, surfer in the background.
Rikki Gilbey chooses to use recycled ocean plastics rather than virgin plastics. (ABC TV: Moving to the countryside)

But bodysurfing handplane maker Rikki Gilbey said he was undeterred.

He partnered with Ms. Hardman to ensure his product was made from 100% ocean plastics.

Woman in a wetsuit on a beach, smiling and holding a flat piece of green plastic in her hand.
Halina Baczkowski tries Rikki Gilbey’s handplane to improve her surfing skills. (ABC TV: Moving to the countryside)

“I thought it would be really easy.”

He said he assumed someone would already be selling the hardware and they could just buy it and put it into a product.

“But yeah, it turned out nobody was doing it,” he said.

He said it cost him more to use recycled plastic.

“Producing plastic is obviously a quick way to create a product, but I was never going to make a product out of virgin plastic to use in the ocean, in particular,” he said.

“I am an ocean lover.”

Plastic Opportunity

Ms Hardman said the issues of waste scavenging and commoditization in remote areas inspired her to create Plastic Collective.

“What regional areas lack is infrastructure, and the cost of transportation is really expensive to get to and from these islands or remote communities or regional communities,” she said.

“That’s why recycling recovery is really difficult and that’s why there are landfills, there is pollution, there is waste going into the rivers.”

She said her favorite thing was watching a community go from shame about plastics to pride.

For more on Louise Hardman’s work and other innovative stories, watch Movin’ to the Country on ABC TV, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. or anytime on ABC iview.

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