Patrick Simpson of Cordova, Alaska, is developing a mobile plastic waste recycler that would turn plastics from old fishing gear and marine debris into durable lumber.

Simpson is using a $100,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to create a recycler that will fit into one or two 40-foot container vans for easy transport to local communities, according to Alaska Public Media.

“The technology is not terribly difficult,” he said. “The innovation is in the use of the net combined with the melted plastic to create an extruded recycled plastic lumber, and the packaging into this mobile platform.”

Along with old fishing gear, Simpson plans to pick up plastic materials that wash up on the coast. He hopes to gather the goods collected in community beach cleanups before it goes to landfills. Plastics come in many forms, he said, and the kinds used in milk jugs or bottles are different from those used in nets or ropes.

“I’m able to take the polyethylene and polypropylene and I’m melting those, and then I’m shredding net nylon and using it as a reinforcement, the fibers, to create a recycled plastic lumber. Then I'm going to sell that locally,” he said.

Simpson said the lumber could be best used for decks, fences or roofing tiles.
He is hoping to get a more sizable grant that would enable him to use drones to locate plastic debris on coastlines.

Elsewhere, Radio Canada reports that Goodwood Plastic Products in Nova Scotia has commercialized synthetic lumber made out of derelict fishing gear and other plastics, using a nearly half-million-dollar grant from the government. It’s part of a more than $8 million Innovative Solutions fund that includes fishermen and divers eager to help.

The recyclables are shredded, melted, and pushed through molds to create planks and posts for decks, park benches and picnic tables.

Goodwood now employs 10 people and hopes to recycle more than 22 million pounds of plastics annually.

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Laine Welch is an independent Kodiak, Alaska-based fisheries journalist. Click here to send her an email.

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