Western student invents eco solution to plastic learner plates

Western Sydney University student Connor Burke believes “sustainability is not just about tomorrow, it’s about the future and what we leave for future generations”.

Turning his words into action, Connor is the inventor of ‘Eco Plate’ – a sustainable solution to the estimated 700,000 plastic plates that are handed out across New South Wales every year.

“When designing the Eco Plate, sustainability was of the upmost importance during research and development. The materials used are all biodegradable, and once the plate reaches the end of its “life cycle”, it can be placed into the ground and act as a compost,” said Connor.

“The plate is made from a recyclable board which is sealed for protection from the driving environment with a biodegradable vegetable-based wax. Moulded to current specification under NSW Governance, the plates have the recognisable yellow ‘L’ or a red/green ‘P’ while also displaying the speed that the driver is legally limited to, and last three months.”

Connor, who is in his first year of studying the Bachelor of Planning (Pathway to Master of Urban Management and Planning) at Western Sydney University, came up with the unique concept as part of a major project for his HSC.

“One day I was driving home from school, and I couldn’t help but notice the number of plates on the side of the road. It was in this moment that I came up with the idea to create a sustainable alternative to our current L & P plates, now known as the Eco Plate.”

Eco Plate featured as part of the 2020 SHAPE Exhibition – an initiative by the Powerhouse Museum that showcases a selection of outstanding major projects from the HSC Design and Technology, Industrial Technology, and Textiles and Design courses.

“It was honestly a privilege to have been selected for the exhibition where I was one of the few students that came from a NSW State Government High School,” explained Connor.

“It was also the first time that Jamison High, where I attended school in Sydney’s west, had a student from the Design and Technology curriculum exhibited both in the museum and online – due to COVID-19 social restrictions.

“This made me extremely proud of the work that I had done as it meant that future students at the school would benefit from seeing that ‘effort equals results’.”

With Eco Plate gaining momentum, Connor hopes to secure funding to patent his invention and is in contact with Transport for NSW and local suppliers about the product.

“To think that a simple project to improve a topical issue has had such an impact on the community is a fantastic feeling,” said Connor.

Connor received an early offer to Western Sydney University through its innovative HSC True Reward program and participated in their Fast Forward engagement program – a high school initiative that connects students in Western Sydney with opportunities and experiences that encourages students to see the value in continuing their education through Year 12 and beyond.

“I chose Western Sydney University because I didn’t want to be just another number or face in the crowd. I chose a Uni that cares more for their students’ education, future aspirations and career pathways.”

“After I graduate, I am wanting to go into town planning within a local council to plan for the future of both metropolitan and regional living. Most importantly, to plan for the future.

“As an inventor, I am looking into new and practical items that can not only help our environment, but improve the user experience from past products. With future products in the current research phase, I am hoping to ‘make a dent’ within society – and create a positive impact for all.”


4 November 2021

Ali Sardyga, Senior Media Officer