plastic waste on kayak
Canberra business leader Tammy Ven Dange is so determined to eliminate plastic waste that in her downtime she regularly pulls plastics from the water when out kayaking. Supplied image.

Canberra business leader Tammy Ven Dange is on a mission to reduce plastic waste.

The former CEO of RSPCA ACT is so determined to eliminate plastics from the environment, even her down-time from her recycling start-up and hosting the Plastics Revolution podcast involves removing plastic.

“I love paddling, but I am forever pulling plastic from rivers and I’m sick of it,” she said.

Ms Ven Dange realised she wanted to do more in the environmental space after a stint as organiser of Clean Up Lake Burley Griffin.

“I wanted to do more than just clean, I wanted to use my business skills,” she said.

“I wanted to create multi-brand business solutions and not be stuck on one solution or one product.”

These ambitions fuelled the creation of her company The Refoundry which has been researching and developing locally made, sustainable products since July 2019.

Under the Harvestcare brand, the company was set to begin supplying locally-made toiletry products in recyclable/refillable aluminium bottles to Canberra hotels this year, but like so many things have, her plans to disrupt the industry were interrupted by COVID-19 restrictions.

Meanwhile, Harvestcare continues to produce haircare and skincare products from locally sourced, natural materials wherever possible, including sustainably sourced beeswax from rescued hives, fair-trade coconut oil from a Queanbeyan supplier, local olive oil and lemon myrtle, and unrefined shea butter. The range is available via harvestcare.com and local retailers including Local Press Wholefoods, The Bower Birds, Essential Ingredient and Kingston Corner Store.

The setback caused by COVID-19 has not lessened Ms Ven Dange’s optimism and she praised Canberra for its positive recycling culture.

“People care, it’s really good,” she said.

“People have been just as diligent during COVID-19.

“It’s just the demand for the recycled product that is the problem.”

The Refoundry has also been working with Australian manufacturers to create a range of petcare products using recycled plastic waste that was previously sent offshore.

“It doesn’t make sense to send anything offshore.

“We do have to wait for the tech to catch up, but the end of the day we have to start making things with our plastic waste.”

Although Ms Ven Dange acknowledged there will be a change in government spending priorities in the post-pandemic rebuild, she believes on a national level that local governments can still play a big role in plastic reduction.

“Council needs to buy the recycled plastic and make park benches, decking and roads,” she said.

“Business has the solutions; we only need a promise that council will buy the product.

“Local council spends enough on landfill to justify making a change.”

Ms Ven Dange was a participant in this year’s Plastic Summit and said all industry stakeholders know what needs to be done.

“Governments need to look beyond the next election cycle,” she said.

“They need to take some risks and make some changes.”

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