Judy Edwards

Judy Edwards

Former Minister for the Environment; Science

    Family concern leads to environmental initiative

    29/09/2005 12:00 AM

    A family’s concern about the number of plastic plant pots going to landfill has led to Australia’s first plastic pot recycling processing plant being established in Welshpool.

    Opening the recycling plant today, Environment Minister Judy Edwards said it was a testament to what individuals could achieve when they had a vision and the belief and passion to realise it.

    Dr Edwards said that before plant owner Bob Williamson developed a pot cleaning and recycling system, the effective recovery or reprocessing of post-consumer waste polypropylene had not been achieved anywhere in Australia.

    “Bob and June Williamson, with daughters Lisa and Emma, have worked since 1997 to rid the environment of used polypropylene pot plant containers,” the Minister said.

    “After substantial personal investment, they have now entered a joint venture with SITA Environmental Solutions, which is one of Australia’s leading environmental waste management companies.

    “The Williamson family’s story is not just a great success story but one of vision, persistence and determination.”
    Dr Edwards said the family began by organising collection cages at nurseries to encourage people to return their pots. From this very successful initiative, they developed reprocessing equipment to turn the pots into feedstock for other products such as rakes, crates and pots.

    It involved developing an in-house chemical emulsion process, Polypropaclean, to clean contaminated pots, and modifying ex-mining equipment, including conveyor belts, to construct his early processing system.

    The Waste Management Board supported this development work with $37,000 funding from the Waste Management and Recycling Fund.

    Eight years ago, Mr Williamson discovered that more than 100 million Type Five plastic plant pots were being discarded into landfill each year in Western Australia.

    The recycling venture began when Mr Williamson went to buy 1,000 palms for their five-acre hills property and ended up buying 59,000 for just $800, because the nursery was clearing them.

    Mr Williamson decided to take the opportunity to pot them and sell them for charity. But when he went to buy pots, he was quoted $27,000.

    He decided to check what local landscapers did with their empty pots, only to find they were thrown out. He collected and used them - and decided to do something about these pots going to landfill.

    “Diverting plant pots and other Type Five plastics from landfill is about to become a lot easier for householders and I see no reason why recycling them cannot capture the public’s imagination and gain the same support and momentum as the burgeoning ‘Say NO to Plastic Bags’ campaign,” Dr Edwards said.

    “Mr Williamson, his family and the company are very deserving of the many accolades and awards they have received, including the 2004 Waste Management Board’s Resource and Waste Management / Minimisation Award, the 2004 Plastics and Chemical Industry National Environment Award, and overall winner in the 2004 SGIO Western Australian Environment Awards.”

    Pot Recyclers Pty Ltd has had approaches from China and Hong Kong, as well as from Melbourne City Council and New South Wales’ Sutherland Council about their recycling operation.

    Minister's office: 9220 5050