A newly formed partnership between the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation and Alaska Plastics Recovery is planning a recycling project this summer to collect shrink wrap removed from winterized commercial fishing boats for conversion into recycled plastic lumber.
“The recycled plastic lumber that we will be producing will be ideal for outdoor construction for projects such as outdoor stairs, fences, decks, retaining walls and walkways,” explained Patrick Simpson, owner of PKS Consulting, the parent company of Alaska Plastics Recovery.
Simpson, who grew up in Anchorage, has been researching options for recycling various plastics for several years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of California at San Diego. Simpson said the plastic lumber can itself be recycling about seven times, although each time it is reheated it will lose some of its integrity.
“The life of recycled plastic lumber is typically three times longer than its wood counterparts,” he said. “Also, the plastic is easily cleaned, allowing moss and other growth to be removed. It also has minimal absorbency, and does not rot.”
In mid-May, Simpson with the vendor that will produce the recycling equipment in New York. The equipment is scheduled to be shipped to Alaska in June, with testing set for July and August in Palmer, Alaska, followed by a pilot demonstration in Seward, Alaska in September.
“We will repeat the pilot demonstration in Seward in 2023 and add Cordova in the late fall of 2023,” he said.
The project is being funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a mobile plastic waste recycling system.
“We want to understand the product’s characteristics before offering it for sale,” Simpson remarked. “These tests will be done over the summer. In the fall, we will be selling product produced by our pilot demonstration.”
Simpson identified Anchorage-based vessel repair and restoration shop Boat Works of Alaska as the first participant in the program. The shop’s general manager, Robert Bond noted that for years this plastic shrink wrap had been sent to the landfill.
“I always wondered if there was something more that could be done with it,” he said. “It is gratifying to see that this plastic will find a new life as a construction material that will be used locally.”
The Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation, based in Girdwood, south of Anchorage, is a community of individuals, businesses and organizations who support public education restoration and stewardship projects that service Prince William Sound’s ecosystem, fish, wildlife and area residents.
The foundation’s program director, Charla Hughes, said the project fit right in with the foundation’s mission.
“Many of these boats that are covered with plastics are used in Prince William Sound during the summer,” she said. “We have a growing beach cleanup and marine debris program out of the Sound, and this project is a great step toward broader approach: being good stewards of precious resources doesn’t just end at the shoreline.”