‘Waste Not’ to Robots: Replas

Australia’s leading plastic products manufacturer was co-founded by a group of Directors who found opportunities in products most of us just throw away. Russell Muller, Director of Repeat Plastics (Replas) was inspired in the 1970s to give waste a new life.

From rubbish to reinvention, Russell learnt early the advantage of joining forces (his first company was a family affair involving himself and his brother), as well as the transformative potential of necessity.

“Essentially, when we lost our market for plastic in the late 80’s, we started playing in it,” said Russell, “Since then, we’ve never looked back.  In 1991, we formed Australian Recycling Technologies Pty Ltd to manufacture plastic, and a decade later, combined with another Aussie business, Repeat Plastics Pty Ltd to continue to use our REPLAS brand.”

Hard Wired to Innovate

Replas turn rubbish into robust recycled plastic products that will last forever. But just creating a good product out of waste wasn’t enough for Replas. Now 20 years later, this Victorian based business has grown from a simple idea to an internationally competitive business that uses state of the art machinery, tended by robots.

“They say that necessity is the mother of innovation,” said Mr Russell Muller, one of three Directors who formed the company, “For us that was true. It was a lesson we learnt early, and one we’ve stayed true to ever since.”

An Australia-wide Expansion

Replas has since grown to have three facilities throughout Victoria, with the head office based in a suburb of Melbourne, over 60 employees, licences in all states, and an annual turnover that is nearly ten-fold what it once was. Smart use of technology has been a key part of that growth.

Bringing on the Bots

“Initially we purchased a few second-hand robots out of the car industry to do jobs that reduce OHS issues for us, things like lifting and cutting,” said Russell, “The backbreaking work that is highly repetitious. Then we expanded to pick and place type robots. Recently, we purchased two brand new robots.”

Results for Everyone

For Replas bringing in the Bots has meant that they can compete on the world stage. Their commitment to technology sparked innovations in processing (they are one of only three companies in the world who can mix polymers in the recycling process) and production.

“We are now able to produce 24 hours a day. This has significantly increased our volume,” said Russell, “Which means that no innovation has ever put people out of work in our establishment. In fact, it’s given them a chance to add more skills, become better paid and created skilled jobs.”

Like all smart companies, Replas closely protect their R&D, but their passion for recycling, best practice and innovation is there for all to see. In fact, they offer free community and business presentations designed to encourage others to embrace that ‘Waste not to bots’ attitude that has inspired them.