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Juneau, AK (September 30, 2011) – Bernie Karl, owner of K&K Recycling in Fairbanks, Alaska, recently accompanied Zach Wilkinson, Technology Associate for SpringBoard, on a trip to meet with Naval Engineers at the Navy Carderock Laboratory in Bethesda, Maryland. The objective of the trip was to see first-hand how a plastic waste technology, originally developed for the warfighter, could be used in Alaskan villages to deal with their own plastic waste problems.

Navy engineers have been working to develop machines that operate on ships and aircraft carriers to assist with the problem of excessive waste and limited storage space. One of the machines invented is a plastic waste processor. Ships generate significant amounts of plastic waste that must be stored. This machine takes all forms of plastic and compresses it with heat and pressure, reducing it to a dense, disk, approximately 20 inches in diameter and from approximately ½ inch to 3 inches thick (about the size of a large pizza pizza). These discs are much more manageable, both to move and store, and take up far less space than loose plastic waste. These machines are currently in use on Navy ships, but not yet being utilized by private industry.

Several years ago, representatives from the Navy Carderock Laboratory traveled to Alaska to give presentations about this new technology, hoping to find industry partners and entrepreneurs, like Bernie Karl, for future collaboration. As owner of K&K Recycling, his intent is to use the plastic waste processors in his own recycling operation first, and then eventually in remote places in Alaska to deal with municipal plastic waste.

The national and local economy, as well as the environment, would benefit from the widespread use and application of this technology.

Another machine that piqued Mr. Karl’s interest was an industrial pulper. This machine grinds biodegradable waste such as food waste and paper into slurry mixed with water. The end product from this machine could potentially be processed in a manner that would create methane (that could be burned for energy), and fertilizer out of what would otherwise be waste.

The expertise and enthusiasm of the Naval Engineers, as well as Carderock’s Technology Transfer Office, will be instrumental in the success of this project.

Other parties interested in the progress of this plastic waste technology include Peter Murphy from the Alaska region of NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. He sees potential use for marine debris cleanup projects, as well as other possible uses for the discs themselves.

Also accompanying Karl on the trip was his wife Connie, as well as Jesse Warwick, an engineer from K&K Recycling. This trip was organized and initiated by JEDC’s SpringBoard Program, and is an example of how DoD technology can be leveraged in ways that benefit Alaska.

As a partner of the US Department of Defense, SpringBoard's purpose is to develop partnerships that result in transfer, commercialization and transition of technologies developed by DoD laboratories and private industry; and support and facilitate K-16 educational programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).


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