Charlie Rudkin-Wilson: From Waste To Wonder
Introducing Charlie Rudkin-Wilson, a creative, recycling plastic waste into beautiful purposeful objects to minimise our communities environmental impact in a fun and colourful way.
How would you describe your story?
The journey probably started in 2017/2018. I used to have a slightly different business where I did consulting for TV and film productions. So I'd go in and make them sustainable in line with baftas accreditation.
I also used to have a project where we were going to make the most sustainable street in the UK, we were crowdfunding for that. So I guess it started years ago with this journey and then all of that stopped overnight with Covid.
I had to completely rethink and redo everything basically, because none of my other businesses and projects existed anymore. I started just doing deliveries for vegetables with a local veg company- for vulnerable people that couldn't get out.
I then started doing refills and delivering those and then fast forward, it was probably only eight weeks that I cycled past what is now my shop. I impulsively called the landlord, viewed it the next day and I signed the contract maybe the day after- I had a refill shop.
With the lockdowns easing, people didn't really have the time to do slow shopping anymore and sales dropped off. With this, I realised it was the perfect opportunity for me to go back to my main project, which is what I really wanted to do, which was recycling. So, we crowdfunded for that and then I started the recycling plastics journey in September.
What inspired you to start MÜLL?
The idea for Müll, which translates to rubbish, came to me in 2017 when I was staying with my mum in Switzerland. I had, like, your classic mental breakdown. I decided to give up my corporate job and soon this sustainable journey. Obviously, at the time, I had no idea what that meant.
What challenges did you face during the startup of MÜLL?
That would definitely be the shredder. I bought the pieces but it could have arrived fully made. I just thought if I don't know how to take it apart and put it together and if it breaks, it would be tough to get that sorted as I wouldn’t know how the machine worked. I figured it made sense for me to build it.
When all my machines arrived and what I could not have predicted was the effect the heat wave at the time would have. Now I know that if it's hot, metal expands so you can't build machines in the middle of a heatwave- all the metals expanded and pieces didn’t fit.
I had to get to the shop at 5 am and I used the fridge next door and had all my metal pieces in there overnight. I would try to fit it all together whilst the metal was still cold. That was definitely my biggest challenge.
I would love to go into more detail about the plastic waste conversion process! What is the process like converting plastic waste into everyday products?
This is probably one of the craziest things- about how straightforward the process is. It’s quite simple, in fact much more effort goes into shipping plastic overseas than converting it with the recycling process like mine.
It starts off with the community bringing their plastic either to our shop directly or through the drop off points throughout South East london. We recycle type 2 plastics which include softer plastics you can probably squeeze like bottle caps. We also recycle type 5 plastic which is a bit more smoother like yoghurt, butter packaging, takeaway boxes, and even CD/ DVD cases.
Once we get these plastics, the next process is to clean and leave to soak if they have not already arrived cleaned. Once it’s dry, it all runs through the shredder. Then I put it in the injection machine, it takes about nine minutes to melt, and then it’s injected into the mold - and there it’s done. So, it’s really just wash, shred, melt, inject, done!
I would love to know more about MÜLL! Since your opening, how many single use plastic items have you been able to convert?
So far, I’ve recycled around 138 kg of plastics which is quite a bit, keeping in mind one yoghurt packaging is 11 grams. We’ve made over a thousand things at this stage. But that's about to go up drastically now that we're in the flow of things, like I made more than a hundred things last week.
What are some of the different materials you’ve been able to make from these single use plastic items you receive?
With the molds we currently have, we can make combs, a soap dish, a candle holder and coaster. Today, I'm making door handles. But the thing I’m most excited about is our new creation, the statement ring. They’re beautiful, they really show how creative we can get with waste, and prove plastic isn’t a material that ever be discarded.
The ZigZag soap dish is currently our number seller, but I have a feeling the ring will be a big hit. We only launched these 2 weeks ago. And I couldn’t be more proud of the design, they’re truly stunning.
What do you see yourself working on/ with in the coming years?
The plan is to grow the recycling. Currently, the phase we are in, I see as our learning phase. I would say our past ten months have been like our A levels- about getting to grips with how the machines work and so on.
Then, I would say the next 12 months are like our degree- getting this recycling process slick, really understanding volumes, and getting more products out there. Once we've got the next 12 months down, we want to open recycling hubs all over the UK in all the major cities.
Do you have any advice for people who want to make a difference/ mark in their community?
The biggest problem at the moment is that many refill shops and sustainable brands are closing down. The best advice, or the thing that's going to have the biggest impact in your community is actually supporting the businesses that are trying to make a difference.
For example, if a refill shop closes down, that's the whole community that no longer has access to that specific refill shop and this in turn will guarantee that single-use plastic consumption will continue. Once businesses like these shut down, then we're just going backwards really.
View Charlie Rudkin-Wilson’s work at: https://mull-club.co.uk/