Picture a world where the remnants of mass production and consumption aren’t discarded into landfill but ingeniously transformed into something valuable – a world that’s not only eco-friendly, but truly sustainable. The circular economy aims to achieve this by minimizing waste through resource reuse and recycling.
For Brad Scott, Director of Transmutation, a micro-recycling firm based in the small seaside town of Robe, South Australia, this dream is to build a future where sustainability becomes a way of life.
“We need to do business differently in the future.”
“Sustainability, craftsmanship, community and innovation. That’s the core of our business,” says Scott, who founded the company’s first iteration, with his wife Narelle, more than two decades ago.
Originally offering transport and project management services to large logistics companies, then relief management services to the Australian tourism industry, Transmutation’s business function has evolved into being a pioneering and collaborative player in the small-scale recycling market.
Shortly after moving to Robe in 2018, as he was busy refurbishing an empty shed at the Robe Industrial Area, Scott came across some YouTube videos from a Dutch recycler that piqued his interest.
These videos inspired him to draw upon the knowledge acquired from his dormant chemistry degree, create a few machines from scrap metal and begin his dabble with what can be described as a form of ‘plasto-alchemy’. This experimentation quickly gathered momentum, resulting in a range of recycled products being manufactured and sold from a makeshift store on his property.
“I built the four machines and started to recycle plastic that we were collecting from the public,” Scott recounts. “A month or so after we started, we got some other products in the store from other makers. So we set it up as a circular economy store, showing what you could do with recycled items.”
“Companies need to put more thought into what they’re achieving.”
Scott and his team now skillfully craft a diverse range of homeware, giftware, clothing, jewelry and accessories from materials like plastics and challenging-to-recycle Styrofoam.
As operations expanded, Transmutation partnered with Aussie Bread Tags for Wheelchairs, a charity overseeing a national collection and recycling program for plastic bread tags.
Transmutation now receives around 50 kilograms of bread tags monthly, processing them into bowls to fund wheelchair purchases for disadvantaged individuals, mainly in South Africa.
“We’ve just done 11 mectric tons of bread tags through our facility,” Scott says. “I donate to the charity, they get their money, they buy a wheelchair, and then I’ve got the plastic source to make my products. It’s a great collaboration.”
The success of the program attracted the attention of larger companies like Second Sphere Partners (SSP), a Sydney-based specialist private capital firm, as well as Country Road Australia and Dulux, who have approached and entered waste recycling partnerships with Transmutation.
These strategic business collaborations have played a key role in Scott’s journey as his company transitions from a small business to a larger enterprise. Currently, he and the Transmutation team are focused on the practical aspects of restructuring the company and raising capital for the next phase of growth and impact.
Notably, Scott has sought the expertise of Second Sphere Partners, a specialized private capital firm based in Sydney, to assist him in this pivotal process. “Second Sphere has basically helped change us from a small mum-and-dad company to a big business,” Scott says.
“We need to do business differently in the future. It’s a new economy out there where, yes, you’ve got to monetize and have profit. But how you do that, who you do it with, and its impact on the planet are essential considerations. Companies need to put more thought into what they’re achieving.”
“It feels good getting people started in business and helping them be successful.”
Alongside Transmutation, Scott has also founded the Australian Micro Recyclers Association, a community of 16 small-scale recyclers aiming to establish and expand the circular economy domestically. The association facilitates collaboration, strengthening industry partnerships, exchanging expertise and sharing business referrals.
Through this work, Scott aims to play a leading role in developing the local industry, attracting and assisting companies in the space and broadening the collective’s positive environmental impact.
“The idea of the association is to get people together, network who’s out there and start growing an ecosystem of recyclers. We need a big network of small recyclers,” Scott explains.
A new product crafted from recycled plastic, in collaboration with Dulux and Sustainable Plastic Solutions, is set for release this quarter. It signifies yet another stride in Transmutation’s continued dedication to work broadly with all types of stakeholders to establish sustainability as the norm, not the exception.
“It feels good getting people started in business and helping them be successful. At the same time, you’re increasing the amount of plastic saved from landfill and being made into something else. We really want to be seen as part of building that circular economy in Australia.”