Established in 2004 by three partners who identified an opportunity in the commercial recycling space for the sustainable recycling of plastics, Perth-based CLAW Environmental is still leading the way in offering a cheaper way of dealing with polystyrene and plastic than taking it to landfill.
The company’s business model focuses on the collection and processing of plastic materials of a reasonable quality. With their value increased through processing, the material is then sold on to manufacturers and further processors.
CLAW receives plastics from a wide range of industries, with a particular focus on those using crates and drums for storing and transporting material. The company is also involved in a number of large recycling programmes, be it through government initiatives or recycling projects with individual clients.
Doing the Right Thing
Owners John and Kate Cameron purchased the company in 2010, after several years working in their respective fields of computing and metallurgy, as well as running an oil recycling plant in Port Hedland, WA.
When an opportunity arose to move to Perth and work in other waste processing, they became involved in a project that looked at plastics as a diesel substitute for vehicles and generators.
“As part of this project,” John tells us, “CLAW Environmental was identified as a potential supplier of raw material. As can happen, the company decided that they did not want to pursue this project and offered CLAW to us to purchase.”
Today CLAW employs a small team of full-time staff and is based in Welshpool, Perth, with most of its client base made up of businesses. The company also serves some domestic clients with a passion for keeping plastics out of landfill, and is working to widen its current services with government and council bodies.
“We also provide services on behalf of other major waste management companies, who find our services can compliment their operations and help in providing their customers a complete recycling service. As landfill rates continue to increase, we see more enquiries for our services.”
“The balance of our business focuses primarily on the recycling of rigid plastics,” Kate explains, “pots, drums, pipes, crates. We are a primary processor, providing shredding and granulating options for plastics. We provide some materials back in to manufacture, but most will go to further processors in the east of Australia and Asia, for further processing into pellets for manufacture.”
The organisation has recently employed a full-time business development manager, in the hope of being able to identify new clients and investigate fresh ways of dealing with plastics that CLAW has not previously been involved with.
“We have been existing on work that has come to us and not having the time and the people power to chase up other similar businesses, or to look at expanding into other plastics.”
CLAW also recently ran trials of polystyrene collection at two government landfill sites, hoping to persuade the government that this plastic can be diverted from landfill, and that there are other ways of dealing with recycling polystyrene.
The company’s recycling plant offers both a collection service and drop-off point, making the recycling of polystyrene accessible to all. The polystyrene is first checked for contaminants such as labels or tape, before it is granulated and stored in a hopper. It is then compressed into a high density log for shipping to overseas markets.
“As the price of landfill continues to rise,” John adds, “this issue will become more urgent.”
Government landfill costs were increased as of January 2015, and Kate believes this increase will only have a positive impact on CLAW’s business.
“We offer a cheaper way of dealing with polystyrene and plastic than taking it to landfill. The problem is sorting it into ‘like’ plastics. If this is done at the source there is no problem for recycling.”
“Education within the workforce as to the different sorts of plastics and sorting at the source will go a long way to helping. As a domestic recycling bin user we all learnt what to put in and not to put into our yellow recycling bins. It’s not hard, it just takes a bit of effort to do the right thing by the environment.”
WA represents approximately 10% of the recycling volume of Australia. The PACIA (Plastic & Chemical Industries Association) annually survey recycling in Australia and provide a comprehensive overview of the recycling processes in the country.
Considering the large distances and lower population of the state, WA struggles somewhat in terms of recycling, but in general manages to maintain a reasonable level compared to the rest of Australia.
CLAW’s role in the state’s recycling needs is significant, as they provide recycling options for a variety of plastics, and are currently the only company recognised by EPSA (Expanded Polystyrene Association of Australia) for the commercial recycling of polystyrene in WA.
CLAW Environmental is also the only company in WA currently servicing drumMUSTER, an industry-funded program aimed at providing rural and metropolitan recycling of used chemical containers.
This federal government initiative ensures a few cents of every pesticide and herbicide sold to farmers is put into a kitty in Canberra, where the program is coordinated.
The farmers then return their empty rinsed containers to shire and council depots all around Australia, where drumMUSTER processors like CLAW use mobile shredders to shred the drums, before shipping them both nationally and internationally.
“At present we are the only drumMUSTER processors operating in WA,” John says. “We liaise with the DM inspectors and shires as to how full their compounds are, and when and if they’re having a collection day, so we can empty the compound before then.”
The program is dependent upon the farming season and whether it’s been a good or bad year. With drumMUSTER recently celebrating its 25-millionth processed drum in Australia, CLAW is delighted to be in on the act.
“We are proud to have been processing since pretty much the beginning and we have a good reputation with both drumMUSTER in Canberra and the shires scattered around the state of WA.”
When the company first started working with the program, it found many ‘rats nests’ of drums on private farms, but has since cleaned a lot of them up and now primarily attends just the shire compounds and some farm sites.
“Knowledge of the program is widespread in the farming community and has been well received as a way for farmers to deal with the problem of disposing non-biodegradable containers. They are constantly looking at ways to deal with problems like this in farming communities. We hope to be around for the 50-millionth drum!”
CLAW specialises in the processing of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP) and expanded polystyrene (EPS)—a range of plastics stretching from pressure and agricultural pipe to standard shipping packaging found in any household.
Other plastics the company deals with include low-density polyethylene (LDPE) such as shopping bags and bubble wrap, and rigid polystyrene (PS), found in coat hangers, picture frames, imitation timber flooring and toys.
Both EPS use and rigid plastic recycling have seen an increase in recent years. With the advent of new technologies in the building industry, EPS is used quite extensively in the second stories of houses that have been added retrospectively, as well as for general construction and extension work.
The bottom layer of the house has not necessarily been built to hold the weight of an original constructed second floor, but the use of polystyrene makes it light and viable. The advance in making patterns in concrete walls is also made easier by using polystyrene as the forms for concrete core walls.
Rigid plastics have seen a boost in recycling for a few reasons, mostly because of the increase in population and as a result an increase in consumption generally. In addition, plastics have been, and will continue to be, developed for new uses.
“An example is the barrier layer plastic drum,” John explains, “which has almost seen the complete demise of the steel drum for certain chemical and hydrocarbons.”
On top of this, the recent increase in costs for landfill disposal options has made the recycling of rigid plastics more attractive, and a growing awareness of recycling and the options that are available has likewise been a factor.
Kate is adamant that if everybody in the country gets on board with the problem, then the efforts of Australia in recycling plastic could easily be doubled, and it is CLAW’s intention to help push forward this increase.
“When I traveled to Japan, I saw households put their different types of recycling into different bins. A milk bottle was split into two bins, the bottle in one and the lid and ring in another.”
The secret to harnessing the potential of this increase is to make sure the population is well educated in the benefits of recycling. This education must come from the government, within the schools, the media, and anywhere else it can be effectively dispersed.
“If the information is out there,” Kate concludes, “then I’m sure there are many, many people who wish to do the right thing, if they only knew how.”
Find out more about Resitech Industries: www.clawenvironmental.com
This CLAW Environmental business profile has been made possible by the generous support of:
To read and download the full profile click on the cover image below. To view this editorial as it appeared originally in The Australian Business Executive magazine, click here.
By Nicholas Paul Griffin