1 June 2023

Year 9 STEAM-4-Sustainability tackling the problems and opportunities of plastic production

Middle School
Year 9 STEAM-4-Sustainability tackling the problems and opportunities of plastic production
Year 9 STEAM-4-Sustainability tackling the problems and opportunities of plastic production
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In 2017, China closed its doors on the importation of much of the plastic waste that was being shipped from Australia to China for recycling. The move has prompted a range of initiatives on the part of local industry driven by government grants and concerns about our growing stockpile of plastic waste.

Our Year 9 STEAM-4-Sustainability program, this year, is designed to engage directly with these issues by helping students to understand the challenges and opportunities created by the plastics industry. The program, which is a joint initiative of Science and Art and Design, traces the historical development of plastics, plastics manufacturing and product development, the problems created by the plastics industry, and the opportunities presented by the emerging circular economy in plastics.

In May this year, as part of this program, our students in Year 9 STEAM-4-Sustainability visited a number of facilities at the cutting edge of the plastics recycling industry in Australia, Replas Environmental Centre, APR Plastics and Martogg Group.

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Replas Environmental Centre is a dedicated plastics education facility linked to the Replas manufacturing company in Carrum Downs. APR Plastics in Dandenong South is one of Australia’s pioneers in the chemical recycling of plastics. After successfully commissioning a pilot plant in 2022, APR Plastics are soon to take their next step with the development of a small-scale commercial plant. Chemical recycling is particularly useful for soft plastics recovery, effectively converting used soft plastics into feedstocks for new materials. Martogg Group, also in Dandenong South, is already one of the leading plastics recycling companies in Australia. In 2022, Martogg secured a $6 million sustainability grant to establish a plastic washing plant to allow the conversion of used plastics packaging into new food-grade packaging.

At Replas Education Centre, students explored in detail some of the benefits and challenges of the plastics manufacturing industry, and the impact of plastic waste on natural environments and marine life. The program considered the way in which plastics released into the environment are finding their way into the human food chain. Students also saw, first-hand, some of the remarkable new products produced by Replas at their recycling facility. At APR Plastics and Martogg Group, students were taken on a guided tour of recycling facilities by key representatives of each organisation, with videos and explanations of how their facilities operate, as well as insights into career opportunities in the recycling industry. There was also plenty of opportunity for students to ask their most challenging questions about the future of plastics. The program was a wonderful adjunct to the STEAM-4-Sustainability program at school providing valuable consolidation of much of their learning in class. It also allowed them to see first-hand some of the projects and processes discussed in the classroom.

Julie Wetherbee
Program Leader – Experiential Learning and Sustainability
STEAM-4-Sustainability Teacher

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