Visiting iAccelerate Expert-In-Residence, Aly Khalifa joins forces with Plastic Collective to fight ocean waste

by Mar 6, 2020

iAccelerate Expert-in-Residence takes leadership role for $2.5m grant with Coffs Harbour pioneers to recycle plastic in remote and vulnerable communities.

WOLLONGONG, Australia – Impact entrepreneur, Aly Khalifa, has become the Innovation Director for a three-year grant awarded to Plastic Collective by Cooperative Research Centre Projects. The mission of the grant is to fight the threat of ocean plastic in remote communities and oceans.

Building from an impressive portfolio of pioneering work in environmental impact, Plastic Collective received the CRC-P grant to expand operations of setting up micro-recycling factories in remote communities across the world. These operations are housed within a 20 foot shipping container and can be deployed into waste collection areas.

Louise Hardman, founder of Plastic Collective, has been working to combat single-use plastic in rural communities for decades.


“Discarded plastic is becoming ever more abundant around the world. To combat the growing problem, we see people dumping or burning it which is harmful and toxic. It’s a vexing challenge because plastic waste takes up a lot of space and has low value. Our unique approach is to see this material as a resource that can be useful and valuable in our communities, and to make an efficient operation to realize that value.” says Hardman.

Plastic Collective uses their Shruder Recycling Stations to work directly with communities and help them recycle plastic. By organizing, cleaning and shredding materials, plastic waste can be repurposed into useful items. This innovative approach attracted Aly Khalifa. Khalifa has been visiting Australia from the USA as iAccelerate’s Expert-in-Residence to mentor local startups on sustainability, manufacturing and design thinking.

“There is a lot of discussion about the Circular Economy and how we should increase recycling but there are very few practical models that truly go the last mile effectively. Plastic Collective’s solution is a brilliant way to work with communities on the front lines of this problem and make positive change happen,” says Khalifa. 

The CRC grant enables the group to build improved pilot units in Australia and bring them online domestically and internationally in remote and regional communities. The effort calls for a comprehensive set of additional activities, including embedded job-training, facility certification, software development and inclusion into the circular economy. To help drive demand, the group will also be exploring waste-to-fuel systems and manufacturing items in demand by the same community.


“This kind of work requires expertise across many fronts, and we’ve put together an excellent team to get there. We’re pleased to have Aly help lead the way. He has a comprehensive grasp of the issues and has already helped us galvanize the effort,” says Hardman.

“You know a project is a good fit when it incorporates a wide range of your skills and life experiences,” says Khalifa. “I fell in love with Australia while supporting startups across the region with iAccelerate. Joining Plastic Collective in this effort is a way to help highlight Australia as a pioneer in sustainable innovation.”

As Innovation Director, Khalifa will be responsible for project direction as well as oversee technical elements of the multi-faceted work. 

This project was recently recognised in Canberra by Federal Government MP for Cowper –  Pat Conaghan.


Plastic Collective was created by Louise Hardman to tackle the complex issues of plastic waste in remote and vulnerable communities. By combining education, recycling equipment and a marketplace for recycled materials, they help turn waste into value for those on the front lines of this environmental crisis.

iAccelerate is passionate about supporting the growth of start ups and entrepreneurs. It is a unique accelerator and incubator program, based in the University of Wollongong Australia where a thriving community of like-minded individuals reside. They help validate, activate, grow, and expand startup ideas while cultivating a mindset for success. They are located at Building 239, Innovation Campus, Squires Way, North Wollongong NSW 2500 Australia.

Aly Khalifa is a product innovator focused on social impact and sustainability. His training as both a designer and mechanical engineer, coupled with 25 years of international manufacturing experience, has enabled him and his team at Designbox to launch impactful products for some of the most recognized consumer brands. Aly has spent the last year in Australia as an Expert-in-Residence at iAccelerate, supporting local startup businesses and developing coursework in design thinking, social impact and advanced manufacturing.

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