Taking Plastic Recycling Into Our Own Hands
Why on earth would a creative agency build a plastic upcycling factory?
Well, if you live in Boise, you’ve heard about how changes to the global recycling market have made it really difficult to recycle certain types of plastics, including water bottles, bags, and clamshells used to package produce.
Cities beyond Boise were also impacted, including Monterey, California, where the city’s grand opening of a state-of-the-art recycling facility that cost $24 million to build coincided with the collapse of China’s recycling market last January. The Pacific Northwest has been particularly hard hit, in part because well-intentioned residents try to recycle things that are no longer recyclable and end up contaminating an entire batch.
All of this hand wringing over plastic recycling struck us as a bit nonsensical. Jay Saenz, our digital marketing manager, had long followed the work of Precious Plastic, which provides open-source plans for machines that create new goods from used plastic. If business exists to solve problems, and social enterprises in particular are charged with solving societal problems through market-based solutions, why the heck couldn’t we do better? Jay suggested we build one, and agency founder and president Russ Stoddard agreed. Around the same time, our German business partner, Markus Kessler, came to Boise and wanted to get involved. PlasticWorks was born, incubated by Oliver Russell and now a social impact lab operated through Humanista, Stoddard and Kessler’s new social purpose consultancy.
Several community partners, including Zero Waste Boise, have been involved from the start.
"I’m excited about the scale-ability of this technology, and the potential to make it not only local, but widely usable and accessible," said Jillien Eijckelhof, founder of Zero Waste Boise. "I’m pleased to see the poetic justice of a marketing agency not only taking on a plastics recovery project, but being a voice within the industry to model the type of values that will be necessary to stem the tide of environmental degradation moving forward."
So even though building a plastic upcycling factory isn’t in our traditional wheelhouse, Oliver Russell's core values include creativity, first and foremost. PlasticWorks is a community-based solution to Boise’s recycling problem that’s infused with imagination. You can learn more about it on this recent Idaho Matters podcast, follow us on Instagram, or sign up here for updates on collections, volunteering, and events.