Kiwi teens turning beach clean-ups into Taranaki business

Hitting the beach has always been a popular summer pastime in Taranaki, but one group of young locals aren't focused on the sun and surf or out walking their dogs.

Instead, the group of teenagers have something else on their mind - cleaning up the beaches and turning it into a business.

"I was doing lots of beach clean-ups with youth and we were kind of looking at the different types of plastics entering our oceans," said Erin Stampel from Upcycle Taranaki.

"So rather than just taking those to landfill we looked at brainstorming some ideas on what else we can do with that."

The result is Trashformers, a Curious Minds-funded project made up of young volunteers from across the region, who have come up with a technological solution to an environmental problem.

"I love spending time in the ocean and it's really heartbreaking to see all the litter in the beaches," said student Rebecca Simpson.

"The degraded plastics that we're finding on the beaches, we've built a machine called an extruder machine and it basically melts the plastic down. We shred it up, it melts it down and then it churns it out into a mould."

Like all good science projects, there have been hurdles along the way. One challenge is trying to get the hardened plastic out of the mould.

"They have a video on how to make them and some awesome blueprints and I was like 'yup, this looks really simple' but I'm not an engineer and it ended up being a lot harder than I thought," said Stampel.

"It's been great to see the girls get in there and get really involved in the engineering as well."

With the extruder machine working - more or less - the focus is on creating some recycled plastic products.

"The Trashformers project is all about taking a product or what some people would call trash and saying this is not just trash, this is a raw material for us," said Upcycle Taranaki's Steve Bates.

Student Luka Marinovich said: "My product idea would probably be phone cases because they're so popular and we could probably resell them and use the money to build even more machines to mass-produce our beach clean up moulded plastic."

Trashformers - protecting your phone, and the beaches of Taranaki this summer.