5 Minutes With Geoff and Tim Barnett
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Earlier this year, VEEN introduced the VEEN EXPLECO limited edition glass-to-sand machine at the India Art Fair 2020. Made to reduce the volume of glass waste by 90% onsite, reduce waste management costs as well as waste storage requirement, the glass crushing machine is a perfect solution for hotels and restaurants to make an environmental impact on-site. VEEN Scene met up with Geoff and Tim, founders of Expleco Limited – a company challenging the misleading recycling models and offering a solution to glass waste that is flexible to almost any environment.

Before we dig into Expleco, may we ask you to define the word “recycling” in your own words; what does the word mean to you?

The word recycling from our perspective is returning a waste product back to its initial state which in this case is a glass bottle. We prefer to use the word up-cycling when it comes to glass as our company objective is to find the most economically and environmentally sustainable solution for waste glass which in many markets due to geographical challenges is not to return the glass to be made into a bottle.

What exactly is a compact glass bottle crusher and how did the idea come about?

A compact glass bottle crusher is a machine designed to reduce glass by 90% to a safe bi-product that can be reused in applications flexible to the users location to save space, cost and improve sustainability. The unit was designed by co-founder and Naval Architect Tim Barnett. Tim has worked in the marine industry for 50 years and first thought up the idea as a great addition for boats with space limitations. Geoff Barnett lived abroad while playing professional cricket and constantly heard echoes of recycling and waste challenges in bustling cities and remote island resorts. The two combined to create a solution to glass waste that is flexible to almost any environment.

Why name the machine – and your brand – Expleco?

Explore Eco – We wanted to explore glass waste and provide a solution that wasn’t a forced hand by global packaging monopolies.

New Zealand is Expleco’s home. What kind of co-existing relationship do nature and human beings share there? and how are recycling systems supporting it?

In all honesty we are behind the times with recycling in New Zealand. We are fortunate to have very low population density here which makes us appear greener to the rest of the world than we probably deserve. New Zealand should be looking to Scandinavia and the Netherlands and applying long-term solutions that are economically sensible. We do have an innovative mindset in NZ but we are also light on capital and have geographical issues to tackle when it comes to recycling.

Where in the world have you encountered best recycling systems?

Scandinavia, Netherlands. Maldives and African resorts punch above their weight given the remote nature over their businesses.

Your sustainability-conscious clients – who are they, and could you give us some examples of how exactly the glass bottle crusher solves their recycling challenges, i.e. what need did the Expleco fill?

Where do I start. I say it daily… We are very fortunate to have amazing clients contacting us every day that are looking to do a better job of looking after our environment Rather than just appearing to do the right, our clients genuinely want to minimize their footprint using economically and environmentally sustainable solutions. The Ranch at Laguna beach uses all of the glass on their golf course in what they call their bottles to bunkers program. Six Senses Resorts do an amazing job finding sensible uses for their smaller volumes of glass sand by making glassware, plates and platters on site. We have also formulated a roading repair product that is being used heavily in the Pacific Islands alongside some of our larger AFS (Auto Feed System) bottle crushers. Swimming pool filter sand, tiles, you name it we have clients that really step it up in this department in more than 90 countries.

How can the glass sand from crushed bottles be further used?

Basically whatever you use sand for provided you screen it to the spec you require.

Since 2013, have you discovered some unexpected and surprising businesses or environments where the glass crusher works particularly well?

The more underdeveloped the region the better reception we get. Many developed cities around the world are also the most corrupt and misleading when it comes to waste management. If we can deal with an end-user we can find a solution in even some of the most remote locations. Maldives, Seychelles, Fiji, Caribbean Islands etc.

If you had one message for the packaging industry, which would be heard by everyone, what would it be?

To truly solve the problem we need to look at the solution as partnership. Everyone has an obligation and it should not be to try and push a one size fits all solution on every recycling model around the world. Bottle manufacturers, beverage companies, hospitality, retail and more than last but certainly not least the consumer have an obligation to minimize their packaging footprint. There is a cost to solve the problem but it is actually relatively simple if you can bypass many of the outdated contracts and systems and look at the best solution for each region. We love this challenge and people are getting much better at spotting the misleading recycling models.