Anchorage, Alaska (KTUU) – Plastic waste is a global problem that Alaska shares, especially when it ends up in the ocean and washing up on local beaches. Patrick Simpson is an Anchorage engineer who wants to do something about it.
“My estimate is that between 75 million and 125 million pounds of plastic accumulate on beaches each year,” Simpson said. “And at best he gets £500,000. So we have a lot of work to do, but I saw it as an opportunity.”
The opportunity Simpson mentioned was the chance to design a portable machine that could crush plastic into small pieces, heat them up and force them into molds, turning the plastic waste into a product Simpson called plastic wood.
Simpson explained that the technology already existed, but received an Environmental Protection Agency grant to scale it down so that recycling machines could be brought to coastal areas where plastic accumulates. did.
“We stockpile plastic in the community and turn it into something useful, in this case recycled plastic wood. The wood is left there to be sold and used in the local community and then transferred to the next community for processing. I will move to ,” Simpson said. “And I think he can create six, maybe eight communities a year that can process plastic in that way.”
In January, Simpson received an additional $400,000 grant from the EPA to begin a pilot program to make sure the portable technology works. But Simpson says reducing plastic waste requires more than recycling efforts. We also need to think that we don’t have to throw away plastic.
Recently, Simpson brought a demonstration-sized recycling unit to Diamond High School to show students how the technology works. Designated an Ocean Guardian School by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dymond is already committed to recycling and protecting reservoirs. In the fall, Dimond students picked up litter on the beach outside Whittier.
Teacher Kat Walker said students were enthusiastic about doing their part and learning about recycling.
“Every time they found trash, they were so excited to make a difference,” said Walker. “I think it’s very important right now to make sure students’ mental health is solution-focused, impactful, and empowering.”
Simpson demonstrated the process, showing students finished plastic lumber made from a larger recycling machine now in Palmer. He said he was impressed by their questions.
“Young people are able to think outside the box, so they get very creative ideas about what they can do with plastic and how to deal with it,” Simpson said. I was.
Simpson said he hopes more people will think of plastic as a reusable resource rather than just something to throw away.
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