Making recycling plastics fun

James Murphy with three 2020 Geelong Business Excellence Awards.

Carole Levy

James Murphy, intrepid owner of Sea All Dolphin Swims, and a resourceful and intensely curious scientist, Adam Slater, from Zero Plastics Australia, are taking a plastics recycling show on the road and into local schools.

This project, Grassroots Plastic Recycling Workshop, is close to his heart and receiving enormous traction and positivity from the community – because the powerful benefits for locals, and the planet, are readily understood.

“What we do is get the school on board to encourage the kids to bring in plastic bottle tops or other simple plastic items. We bring impressive equipment with us, which the kids get to use. The plastic bottle tops (which, by the way, are unwelcome in recycle bins) are then melted into crazy colours and poured into moulds.

“One of the kids said: ‘We could make homeless shelters out of this!” And that’s the type of thinking we hope to ignite. We’re a quite close to making big items, such as outdoor furniture and sports equipment for schools and other groups, but there’s no reason why we won’t get there sooner with the right support, clever thinking and determination.

“For now, the kids make something small, such as pens, clipboards, USB drives, figures and the like. It’s theirs to take home – along with, hopefully, a greater appreciation of our fragile world and ways we can all contribute to its health. Maybe one day one of those excited students will come up with a new way to tackle environmental issues.”

Most kids love interactive programs and Murph discovered to what degree physical interaction really works.

“We’d been thinking about automating our equipment, but once we saw kids hanging off a giant lever (safely) to control things, we knew the manual stuff had to stay. They love it.”

Recently, James heard from Christine Smith, the owner of award-winning Great Ocean Stays about Harris, a boy in a wheelchair with a terminal illness who’d been staying, as Murph put it, “at the best accessible and inclusive accommodation business in Victoria and wider”.

“We gave Harris a one-on-one plastic recycling session with Adam and we will not easily forget the look on his face as he looked down at the brontosaurus figure he’d created. ‘I made a dinosaur from dinosaurs!’ he said with a huge smile.”

“It was no time to tell him the idea that plastics come from oil, a fossil fuel ‘fed’ by dinosaur bones, is actually debunked. Like Harris though, I enjoy the dinosaur story.”


It all started when James accepted an invitation to a stakeholder meeting around local wildlife.

James, who also helms Great Ocean Road Surf Tours and not-for-profit Southern Ocean Environmental Links (SOEL), says lots of discussions with people in the community resulted.

“I realised that, while’s there was a wealth of anecdotal knowledge, there seemed to be gaps in the scientific knowledge of local marine systems. This led me to talking to a professor in marine science at Deakin University, among others,” explains James, or Murph as he’s known.

“He told me that the lack of scientific data could be put down to limited funding for research.

“So this was the catalyst to my wanting to do something, to support our researchers and Deakin to improve our local environmental knowledge. So Sea All Dolphin Swims and Great Ocean Road Surf Tours have begun charging participants a $10 environmental levy which goes toward local marine research and conservation.”

Murph also moved to support the Pope’s Eye camera system, which provides views above and below water of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, believing it has “too much value for schools and scientific community to lose”.

For more information, call SOEL on 0493 130 940 or visit