START UPS: Demogene Smith, MMC Local Health District, David Freeman, (runner up) and Louise Hardman, The Pacific Collective (winner).
START UPS: Demogene Smith, MMC Local Health District, David Freeman, (runner up) and Louise Hardman, The Pacific Collective (winner).

Start up cleans up to win comp

ON A trip to Thailand Louise Hardman, a local environmental science/ chemistry teacher, and her daughter were enjoying a day in a beautiful national park. That all changed when she saw a five-year-old local girl throw a bag full of rubbish into the river.

"When I asked her why she said 'that's what we always do', her belief was the river takes the rubbish away,” Louise said.

"It was just ignorance, she didn't know any better.”

This was a turning point for Louise. Her background in environmental management, marine education and conservation had already given her an insight into the damage waste plastic causes in our oceans. A 1993 rescue she attended of a green sea turtle in the Wooli river, which died as a direct result of ingested plastic, had always stayed on her mind.

"I started looking at the next generation and this created my passion to become a teacher.”

It wasn't just education that was in her sights, Louise was determined to find a solution to the plastics in our oceans.

It was this determination and passion that led to her standing on a stage last Saturday pitching her idea to a panel of judges. She had just five minutes to convince them that her idea was a winner. She nailed it.

The panel were from Startup Coffs Coast, and their pitch competition is designed to inspire budding entrepreneurs and innovators to pitch their business solution to win the prize money and support they need to make it happen.

Louise spoke about her goal of teaching communities in the Pacific region how to turn waste plastic into resources. Her company, The Pacific Collective is developing waste plastic recycling (WPR) machines and resources to eliminate plastic waste from entering waterways and landfill, with tailored educational programs, machines and resources aimed at establishing viable new micro-enterprises in WPR.

At the heart of the project is the "shruder”, a mobile machine that is a hybrid of a shredder and extruder.

"Last year I found a guy in the Netherlands who made machines for his university project and he enabled me to get an idea of what could be done and since then All Metal Fabrications in Coffs Harbour have been a great helping me build and refine the shruder.”

Louise is thrilled about her Coffs Harbour StartUp Pitch win which will enable her to further develop her business plan and is quick to acknowledge support she has had along the way.

"I have been attending the Six Degrees Innovative Hub which has been fantastic and would like to thank Christina Cooke who has given me so much support and also Steve Vallance from the Dept of Industry who has also been a mentor.”

In commenting on Louise Hardman's win, Steven Saunders from CHCC and StartUp said: "Louise is best described as a social entrepreneur; she is trying to put a dent in a global problem.”

"She has passion grounded in reality. Her pitch was technical yet gripping.”

Louise recommends local entrepreneurs and innovators get involved with the Six Degrees Innovation Centre in Coffs Harbour or the new one opening at Woolgoolga tomorrow above the IGA.

"It's a great way to meet like-minded people,” she said.

Louise already has inquiries from around Australia and the Pacific to purchase her machines. If you would like to become involved in helping Louise scale up, contact info@thepacificcollective.

"I'm actually working towards being no longer in business, no more plastic in the oceans is the goal.”

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