Mobile Plastics Processor Arrives in Alaska
A board made of recycled plastic next to its mold inside a mobile processing unit.
A first-of-its-kind mobile plastics processing system is being deployed in Alaska.
Factory in a Box
Housed in a 53-foot trailer, the recycling system is designed to take plastic collected from Alaska’s beaches and local communities and convert it into recycled plastic lumber. American Cierra Plastics of Auburn, New York designed and built the processor.
Paul Vanderpool, president of American Cierra Plastics, says the mobile processor draws from decades of experience. “We have been building systems that are in use worldwide, but this is the first time we have delivered a system that was fully portable,” he says. “This could be truly transformational for rural Alaska and other rural communities throughout the world, allowing full utilization of their waste plastics.”
The system was commissioned in July. Pilot demonstrations are scheduled this fall in Palmer and Seward.
“This system breaks the traditional hub-and-spoke recycled plastics processing paradigm, where all the material is shipped to a centralized facility,” Vanderpool says. “Instead, you can stockpile the plastic locally, bring in the processing system, convert the plastic to product, leave the product for local consumption, and move the processing system on to the next community.”
Plastic waste, which might include buckets or tarps, is deposited through a slot in the side of the trailer. The processor shreds the materials and blends the pellets into a proprietary formula. The black goo is then pressed into a flow molding machine, which shapes the material into boards or other shapes.
The mobile approach to recycling was conceived by PKS Consulting’s president, Patrick Simpson, who is receiving funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program. Simpson sees this system as a game changer for rural coastal communities throughout Alaska, where landfills are filling fast (or full) and plastic waste is plentiful. “Shipping costs would make a traditional approach infeasible,” Simpsons says, adding that he hopes “plastic can be viewed as a local resource and not as trash.”
PKS Consulting operates Alaska Plastics Recovery as a subsidiary, converting plastic waste into construction products. Initial product sales have been secured for the manufactured material to be used as freight dunnage, or packing material for cargo transport. American Cierra Plastics says many other uses will follow.
American Cierra has been developing methods of recycling plastic for more than thirty years.