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Meet Jodie McQueen—G Project Finalist

Jodie’s professional background is in communications and marketing but she completed her undergraduate studies with a major in Zoology

by Daniel Sendecki Posted on 13 September 2013

This week, __the Looptail is coming to you live from outside the gates of Costa Rica’s _Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio from our first-ever Summit in the Jungle. Each day, we’re profiling a different visionary whose world-changing ideas earned them one of four spots at the Summit — and a shot at winning $25,000 to fund their vision. Today, we’re proud to introduce Australia's Jodie McQueen._

G Project Finalist Jodie McQueen, Melbourne.

My Idea: From Plastic Bottles to Boardwalks

My idea is to repurpose plastic waste discarded by the tourism industry in developing nations into building materials via a buy-back arrangement with resort operators.

Travel can make a difference

As nature-loving tourists, we travel to the world’s most remote and beautiful locations. By travellling, we can make a difference – the income earned from tourism provides jobs, opportunities for education and health, a reason for people to value and protect the environment. But it leaves a legacy: waste. In the developed world, waste like plastic is managed by a modern waste management system that requires a complex system of recycling and transport infrastructure to deliver it to recycling processing facilities.

Making it work

To make this system viable, there needs to be the technology available to recycle materials, and the market for end products to support the investment in the process. In many developing nations this system simply does not exist. 

Small island nations are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of tourism-derived waste. The mix of a lack of technology and the problem of distance (making transporting waste or recyclables difficult and expensive) added to a lack of land for landfill, waste is simply burnt or dumped with the added implications for the very environment that is the basis of the tourism industry.

From waste to durable building materials

The outcome of my idea is to reduce the impact of plastic waste on small island nations and the fragile marine systems that provide the basis for local tourism industries. 

A buy-back model – whereby the tourism industry pays to remove and recycle its waste by buying back useable building materials to build and maintain resort infrastructure (durable recycled plastic boardwalk, bollards and jetty materials, etc.) – will ensure a sustainable industry that supports local jobs and is economically viable. It will also provide an opportunity for the industry to promote its sustainability credentials. 

The use of recycled plastic waste to create durable building materials has added benefits, as it removes the need for other building materials that may be in short supply (in the case of many small islands such as the Maldives) or taken from environmentally unsustainable sources (think illegal logging of threatened tropical forests).

Supporting local communities

People in the developing world aspire to the same consumption-based society as we do, meaning increased waste produced by local communities. Providing the investment certainty through a local industry buy-back program would allow for the technology to be utilized to support local communities’ recycle waste into building materials that could either be used to improve local public infrastructure or as a source of materials for the community.

Behind the idea: Jodie McQueen

Jodie’s professional background is in communications and marketing but she completed her undergraduate studies with a major in Zoology. An opportunity to work in Japan drew her away from further academic studies and a scientific career. Returning to Australia, she spent eight months working at a resort on an island situated on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, where she managed the resort’s environmental management and interpretative programs and learned to dive in her spare time.

She soon realized that communicating with people about the importance of protecting our environment was just as important as studying it. This led her to return to Melbourne and complete post-graduate studies in Public Relations. She has worked in various related roles at both a local and state government level. She now works for a State Government agency promoting the importance of recycling and waste minimization.

In her spare time, she’s had the privilege to scuba dive in and travel to some of the world’s most pristine locations. While at home, she is busy with various sustainability projects which have included blogging about her backyard chickens and veggie patch and establishing a neighbourhood community garden.

Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.