The little Aussie bottler

The Ecological Justice Hub at Jesuit Social Services gives new life to old plastic lids. Stuart Muir Wilson from JSS hopes it will raise community awareness about recycling methods


Jesuit Social Services’ Ecological Justice Hub is a permaculture garden workshop, community kitchen and offices dedicated to both social and environmental justice, located in Brunswick, Melbourne. My role is Coordinator of the Hub. Alongside a small number of staff and a cohort of volunteers, I drive the Hub’s work using ecological action to address disadvantage through education and training, demonstration projects, and community engagement.

The Hub was recently successful in receiving a Sustainability Victoria grant that has allowed us to purchase Precious Plastic recycling equipment – three machines that shred single-use bottle caps and melt them into a resin we can shape into beautiful and durable items such as planter pots and reusable coffee cups.

Stuart Muir Wilson at the Ecological Justice Hub in Brunswick, Melbourne. Photo: Sue Martin

Plastic bottle caps are recyclable in theory, but because councils have different rules around caps which often confuse community members, and because machinery is often unable to sort caps effectively, most caps end up in landfill.

Having access to Precious Plastics equipment is a dream come true – allowing us to put bottle cap recycling in community hands for community benefit, educate and empower the community, and keep plastic out of landfill.

The equipment will allow us to deliver plastics recycling workshops to schools and community groups, to share skills, raise community awareness around plastics waste – including the need to drastically reduce our consumption of plastics in the first place – and inspire further grassroots collective action.

Photo by @ecojusticehubmelbourne on Instagram.

Working with experienced business plastics recycling practitioners, Precious Plastics Melbourne, we will also deliver workshops to Maker communities, and non-profit social justice associations, and local businesses, with the aim of reskilling an older demographic in new and emerging technologies, encouraging local community organisations and entrepreneurs to recognise the potential for social enterprise, and ultimately creating small business opportunities in plastic recycling – with a focus on opportunities for marginalised and disadvantaged people.

With the money raised through selling recycled plastic items, we hope to invest in upgrades in the plastics recycling technology which will make the process more efficient and allow us to produce a wider range of useful, beautiful items that are made in Melbourne.

Illustration on the whiteboard at Jesuit Social Services’ Ecological Justice Hub. Illustration by Rasalila Humphrey (@ra_ra_rites), Photo: Sue Martin

To date, we’ve collected more than 38 kilos of caps from local community organisations. The response from community has been enthusiastic, with local cafes and neighbourhood houses getting on board to collect bottle caps – and becoming advocates for this work in the process – and excitement growing about the potential social and environmental impact of this project.

My hope is this project will promote a greater awareness that we can all be part of the solution in plastics recycling.

Stuart Muir Wilson, Coordinator of Jesuit Social Services’ Ecological Justice Hub

Find out more about more about the Ecological Justice Hub.