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Circular 11 provides durable building blocks that could last a lifetime

Circular11 Benjamin Gibbons (right) with business partner Connor Winter.

A couple of years ago, UK entrepreneur Benjamin Gibbons took a trip to Peru and witnessed the true scale of plastic pollution. Back home, the engineer was determined to do something about it domestically and set up Circular11. The timing was tricky as the launch coincided with the pandemic. On the upside, Gibbons had a lot of time to fine-tune his ideas.

‘We mostly process PET, PP and HDPE from household waste. The material is shredded, turned into granules and fed through an extruder. This allows us to create durable recycled products like sturdy, weather resistant outdoor furniture, plant pots and, most recently, a variety of building products such as fences and decks.’

Gibbons says the benches and picnic tables are top sellers because they last for at least 25 years, are low carbon and don’t rot. ‘When you’ve finished with them, they can be recycled four or five more times. Ideally, this keeps them serving a useful purpose for a century, rather than melting them down for energy and losing the material forever. This is the common fate for about 88% of plastic waste right now. My team is keen on changing the statistics in favour of circularity.’

Gibbons doesn’t agree that turning post-consumer plastics into practical items is ‘downcycling’. ‘Opinions differ, I guess,’ he says with a shrug. ‘I don’t mind how critics describe our portfolio because some people are never satisfied. We provide a service that gets rid of waste while turning the material into assets, ones we can all relate to and see every day, and ultimately increasing recycling awareness.’

The impact of these recycled materials stretches beyond reducing waste. ‘I could see recycled materials replace timber in many areas. This would help curb deforestation and protect the natural habitat of wildlife.’

The business, which supports the Plastics Pact, was recently one of 17 beneficiaries of £3.2 million (EUR 3.6 million) in government funding. ‘It will go a long way in scaling up our operations,’ says Gibbons, who is particularly interested in exploring new applications in the building industry.

‘It’s still early days for our activities in this segment. We noticed that during Covid many people did home improvements or needed a home office. Recycled materials could be a game-changer in this area. There are lots of opportunity for growth.’

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