On the daily

Plastic free July Day 4…

Visy Recycling behind ‘toxic’ plastic waste container in Indonesia

Visy’s ‘toxic’ plastic waste will be returned to Australia from the Indonesian city of Batam after Indonesian authorities put their foot down.
— Read on www.smh.com.au/world/asia/visy-recycling-behind-toxic-plastic-waste-container-in-indonesia-20190703-p523s0.html

That’s right kids. Recycling isn’t the answer. It’s actually “downcycling” because the result is material of a lesser value that will ultimately be landfilled.

We are the only species in earth that creates waste. And waste is simply the result of lazy design. We are better than this people!

On the daily

Unknown unknowns

It’s been a busy few weeks since landing back in Oz from the UK. While Kim has remained in London I have been solo-parenting and working from Sydney.

The kids may have rickets given their exclusively Coco Pops derived diet under my household leadership.

Kim headed to NY last weekend to speak at the UN’s Youth Assembly addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. She was also a judge for an impact start-up competition and met some amazing young entrepreneurs from all over the world. There were in fact 1,000 delegates from 100 countries.

Kim made an interesting and somewhat uncomfortable observation after learning about these fantastic young entrepreneurs.

In these rapidly changing times, we have the tendency to mistake what we believe is much-valued wisdom with a limited Fixed Mindset that forecloses on possibility.

When we started gDiapers in 2005, we came into it with “beginner mind” as we had no experience in Consumer Goods, fundraising, team building, moving to America-ing and indeed parenting as we had just become parents too. The beginner minds is also known as a “Growth Mindset“. Without it we would have never gotten the business off the ground.

It strikes me that a Fixed Mindset probably comes with age. And as we are now older – 48 (!), maybe we have slipped in our way of thinking. That is a dangerous thing given just how fast the world is now changing. Just when you think you know it all, you realize you don’t. Or you don’t realize you don’t and live a life of unknown unknowns in the famous words of Donald Rumsfeld. (Remember those simpler times of just lying about going to war? Good times. Hit the link – my favorite press conference).

Food for thought.

On the daily

The trouble with banning plastic straws and everything else

On holiday with the extended family – brothers, sisters, cousins all together to celebrate the Matriarch’s 80th birthday and the conversation turns to straws with my brother who works in hospitality in the UK.

His hotel is making the switch to paper straws and have immediately run into two issues: (1) The paper ones are 4x the price and (2) in some drinks they disintegrate: a failure of price and performance.

This will likely be repeated as we work our way down the list of plastic goods to be banned. Price is certainly an issue in our category as we prepare to launch gCycle in the UK. There is nothing in the world as cheap and effective as plastic. Over 70 years we have refined and perfected the art of extracting oil, extruding plastic and making everything we can think of out of plastic. It’s really the McDonalds of a material. In small amounts as originally intended, all good but today like the fast food / obesity epidemic plastic is killing us.

So what is the answer in a world where we all want cheap, convenient and now sustainable?

The combination of China banning the importation of recyclables along with very low recycling rates globally, I do not believe recycling is the answer. It’s missing the surge of the problem, the material we use to make products in the first place. And most recycling is really down-cycling: an ever-decreasing value of the products being made from recycling.

I think the answer is to bring into the world new materials that are designed with the end in mind. These are materials used in products that follow Cradle to Cradle principles.

By definition, these materials are more expensive than plastic and will remain so until mass adoption is achieved. To bridge the gap between here and there, I see Government subsidies as a key piece of the puzzle. I see no other way to accelerate to a Circular Economy away from the current Linear one.

With the price issue resolved, there will be more viable businesses able to test and tweak new materials to make products that match the performance of their plastic alternatives.

Banning plastic products alone will not see the change we seek. We need a little pricing support too to kick things off.

Conferences, Cradle to Cradle, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

First week down in London

Last week was jam packed full of meetings. And there were tailwinds for us too. The UK Government announced significant funding to end single-use plastic waste, Sky (yes, Murdoch's outfit) announced their own funding to support new technologies to end ocean plastic waste and the full impact of China's ban on importing recyclables from around the world is now starting to hit home. And it's not pretty as stockpiles of waste start accumulating. 

We started north of London at Cranfield University and their Graduate students who are working with us on our gCycle business modelling. 

CU Sign 1

I like to call it Strategery…

CU Sign 1

We met with Milton Keynes council to figure out their nappy waste issues. Note the sustenance we offered from Australia. 

CU Sign 1

Kim got all MBA like on us and started writing stuff on the white board. Really hope she didn't use a permanent marker!

CU Sign 1

And we finished off with a Pub dinner. 

We then headed due west, nearly running into Wales to meet our engineering partners.  We have co-designed some great kit to make resources from dirty nappies. As a Bachelor of Arts graduate I did my very best to look informed and in-the-know as we saw machines whirr. I nodded heaps. 

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Stuart

Again, note the nutrition we brought to the table…

Then we headed South East and spent an afternoon with gTeam member Steph. A shocking hair day for me. Unforgivable really. 

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It wasn't all work.

Completely coincidentally I ran into a Mum of one of my son's best mates at a cafe in Chelsea. We also met up with my brother, hit a pub with our fabulous friend Tom who is putting us up and thanks to the power of social media, spent Friday night at an impromptu dinner party with old friends from Portland, Oregon and others all in the impact investing space. A remarkable group and much fun. 

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Just bumping into friends on the other side of the globe. 

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Mini family reunion. 

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Portland Reunion in London. 

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Pub

After work Pub time. 

Then the weekend hit and we headed to the Continent to meet up with the kids (a much longer story for later) and then headed to a conference in Germany on all things Cradle to Cradle & Circular. More updates to come!