Geological supply company Dynamics G-Ex is tackling the issue of plastic waste in the exploration industry through a new line of biodegradable sample bags.
Based on cornstarch, the company says the bags can simply be buried in-situ when no longer required – cutting out the time-consuming and costly step of emptying plastic sample bags after a campaign and transporting that waste to an approved landfill.
It follows Dynamics G-Ex’s recent shift to manufacturing its Discoverer core trays from recycled kerbside plastic waste rather than virgin material.
Company co-founder Spencer Dormer said sample bags and core trays accounted for about 80 per cent of the consumables the company supplied to the mining and exploration sector.
“So, when you look all over the Australian bush, you’re going to have miners or explorers using both products and that weighting has led us to think, ‘Well, how can we actually make these more environmentally friendly, more sustainable?’,” he said.
“And ultimately, there is pressure on the miners nowadays to take care of their corporate-social responsibility and their image.”
Mr Dormer said the new cornstarch-based sample bags offered the properties of plastic when it came to storing samples, unlike hessian or paper alternatives which could leach wet material or shed sample fines.
At the same time, they would compost over time through the action of micro-organisms when buried.
Mr Dormer said the company had carried out independent testing with AngloGold Ashanti at Kalgoorlie to prove the bags’ durability when exposed to the elements.
“You need to have it so you can leave it on the ground and go back months later and still find it intact so that they can re-sample,” he said.
“So, with AngloGold, they went back eight months later and the actual integrity of the bag was as robust as previously; it hadn’t lost any of its strength.”
Mr Dormer said Dynamics G-Ex’s first shipment of the new bags arrived in Australia in September and the company had been in discussions with environmental authorities about their use.
“They want us to get this happening as fast as possible because it basically removes a massive headache when the question comes up, ‘what do we do with our waste sample bags?’,” he said.
He said the Dynamics G-Ex sample bags were a new application of a resin which had already met Australian standards for biodegradable plastics (AS 4736).
While it was still early days, he said there had been ‘massive ‘ interest from mining companies.
“As far as the price goes, they’re two and a half to three times more than a standard bag. So, that just goes with economies of scale,” he said.
“As people get on board that will come down.”
The company’s offering of biodegradable sample bags and recycled polymer core trays (introduced in February this year) comes at a time when environmental lobby groups are increasingly making their presence known by becoming shareholders in mining companies to gain further influence over their policies and practices.
Mr Dormer said the product options from his business gave companies a clear way to demonstrate an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible approach to mining.
Mr Dormer said Dynamics G-Ex had a big vision for the product lines:
“Discoverer Core Trays are saving 1.5 million kilograms of kerbside plastic from entering landfill every year, and the movement just started: our next goal is 25 million kilograms by 2030.
“Samplex Enviro Bags will save 3 million plastic bags from entering landfill every year, and the movement just started: our next goal is 90 million bags by 2030.”