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Byron Shire
December 7, 2023

Waste into art – RATs to be transformed

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Chrissy Klements from Global Ripple and Sasha Mainsbridge from Mullum Cares.
Photo Jeff ‘Giving A RATs Since Time Began’ Dawson

The Shire’s RAT (rapid antigen test) upcycling project has taken a significant step forward, with a local OP shop and a well-known sculptor putting their hands up to take part.

Driven by local not-for-profit organisation, Mullum Cares, the pilot project aims to reuse the plastic from tens of thousands of RAT test cassettes, thus preventing them from going into landfill.

This week, the Global Ripple op shop in the Byron Arts & Industry Estate became the first local business to introduce a RAT collection bucket.

‘It’s consistent with their approach that, if there’s a community need, they’re the first to put their hands up to do something about it,’ the founder of Mullum Cares, Sasha Mainsbridge, said of Global Ripple.

‘We’re asking people to keep their test cassettes, remove the testing strip, break them up into the two component pieces, wash them thoroughly and then bring them in and place them in the collection bucket provided.’

Once 50 kilos of plastic has been collected, local sculptor, Steve Roswell, from Studio Kite plans to use a chipper to shred the RATs into a fine grain.

He will then use a 3D printer to mould the plastic into a quirky sculpture.

Mr Roswell’s studio has created several large-scale works of public art, including the Barangaroo Lion located on the famous Barangaroo headland in Sydney Harbour.

It is understood he is considering using the locally-obtained plastic to create a sculpture of a rat with a human face.

He and Ms Mainsbridge hope the project will raise public awareness about the upcycling of RAT’s and plastic waste more generally.

‘I want every chemist in the Northern Rivers to contact me about putting one of these buckets in to collect RATs,’ she said.

‘Ultimately, we’re not going to save the entire waste problem with this project… But we’re hoping that the places which are selling them will put their hands up to collect them as well’.

‘Valuable resources like this must be recovered, and if they can’t be recovered by councils, then the responsibility must be placed on the upstream players to stop senseless and climate-changing waste.

‘The rise of China as a super manufacturing power has led to the global raping and pillaging of natural resources needed to feed human demand for stuff.  

‘Products that used to be made to last are now hard to find and we find ourselves with broken goods that we either can’t find repairers for or aren’t prepared to pay the Australian labour rates to undertake the repair. 

Bio-hazard concerns 

‘So we waste. And the global population grows and so does the waste.’

Ms Mainsbridge said she understood and acknowledged people’s concerns about safety when it came to upcycling RATs, but pointed to the collection of women’s sanitary products as evidence that such issues could be managed on a mass scale.

‘We are doing this safely – we just need the community to get on board and bring their clean RATs in,’ she said.

‘We believe consumers want less waste and are prepared to make more of an effort to contribute to this outcome, and that they want systems and regulations put in place to mandate maximum diversion of reusable resources from landfill,’ she said.

‘We only want to do this until Easter, so we’re encouraging everyone – locals and businesses – to get involved’.

To contact Sasha, visit Mullum Cares, or call 0422 641 474.

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  1. What a commendable idea!
    I obtained for the first time the RAT kit & saw for myself how many plastic components are involved, including the plastic bags for disposal!
    If I need to test again, I know now what to do, but I’d like to know location of collection points.


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