Most of us have been far more concerned about how to get hold of rapid antigen tests (RATs) over the past few months than what happens to the plastic testing kits after use.
But a local not-for-profit, Mullum Cares, is now exploring the possibility of safely upcycling the plastic from RAT testing cassettes rather than condemning it to landfill for the next 1,000 years.
The organisation has launched a pilot RAT recycling project as part of its Salvage Culture initiative.
It is asking locals to store their used RAT testing cassettes in a clean glass jar with a lid, and then deliver them to a special collection point at the Mullum Library of Stuff during its hours of operation (see below).
The tests will then be carefully decontaminated before proceeding to the upcycling phase.
‘50,000,000-plus RAT kits are destined to go straight to landfill in Australia alone’, the founder and president of Mullum Cares, Sasha Mainsbridge, said.
‘The mask pollution was bad enough, but this is top-quality plastic that should not be wasted in landfill.
‘The time and effort that go into making products for human consumption should be respected by all who benefit from their creation, taking responsibility to maximise the use of products and the materials they are made from’.
Mullum Cares is currently trying to figure out what type of plastic is used in the testing cassettes, so that they will know what the options for reuse are.
At the same time, they are meeting with local partners to collect, transport, decontaminate, and shred the hard plastic, so it can then be moulded into something useful.
The organisation is hoping this will prove that upcycling the devices is not only achievable but beneficial, and that it will inspire a national approach.
‘We advocate for extended producer responsibility in the form of a collection-bin program where every place you buy a RAT has a collection bin,’ Ms Mainsbridge says.
‘If you purchase them online, you must be supplied with a postage-paid reply satchel. Sound scary?
‘Why shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the maker and seller to manage the end-of-life materials?
‘Why do our councils just have to suck it up and accept another problematic product destined for the landfills they are dictated to manage by the state governments?’
Ms Mainsbridge says that this type of extended producer responsibility system should be implemented for all problem waste streams, especially those that include toxins that are likely to leach one day into our underground water reserves.
Mullum cares also collects other types of plastic for upcycling as part of the Salvage Culture Project, including bread ties, milk-bottle lids, and old credit cards.
Locals are asked to bring these plastics to the Mullum Library of Stuff, located at the Mullumbimby Scout Hall, during the following hours: Tuesdays 8–10am, Thursdays 4–6pm, and Saturdays 9–11am.