Turning Plastic Waste into Picnic Tables

Mar 1, 2023 | Environmental, News

Grizzly Wood

The mold that makes Grizzly Wood fits inside a shipping container.

Alaska Plastics Recovery

A pilot project to recycle plastic waste into lumber isn’t resting on laurels just yet, but outdoor recreators in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough can rest on the product itself, in the form of picnic tables and benches.

Grizzly Wood

PKS Consulting received the first prize in Mid Valley Recycling’s Recycling Contest. The cash award for $5,000 will be used to make picnic tables to be placed at various locations throughout the Mat-Su, demonstrating one of the applications of Grizzly Wood, a brand name for plastic lumber made entirely from waste plastic collected in Alaska.

Mid Valley Recycling in Big Lake sponsored the contest in collaboration with the Valley Center for Recycling Solutions and the Mat-Su Health Foundation. Entrants had to demonstrate the creation of new products from recycled paper, aluminum, Styrofoam, or plastic.

The contest was inspired by the recent success of Thermo-Kool of Alaska, a Wasilla company that uses cellulose insulation made with 85 percent locally recycled materials. Mid Valley Recycling’s Program Coordinator Sammy Taylor adds, “We wanted to see someone come up with a similar concept and said no idea is too crazy, no material off limits.”

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The $5,000 prize is for the over-18 age category. The under-18 bracket competed for a $3,000 prize, which went to Banana Botz, a team of six students at Teeland Middle School whose Extreme Ecobrick proposal investigates the housing possibilities of 40-foot refrigerated shipping containers. The team will use the prize money to travel this summer to a national Lego Robotics competition in Boston.

PKS Consulting, through its subsidiary Alaska Plastics Recovery, brought a mobile manufacturing unit to Palmer last fall. Company president Patrick Simpson devised the system and had it built in New York by American Cierra Plastics with funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program. In addition to demonstrating the processor technology, Simpson has been seeking uses for the product, Grizzly Wood.

Beyond Big Lake benches, Simpson sees this system as a game changer for rural coastal communities throughout Alaska. “Shipping costs would make a traditional approach infeasible,” Simpson says, adding that he hopes “plastic can be viewed as a local resource and not as trash.”

The demonstration tour continues this spring, when the 53-foot trailer travels to Soldotna and Seward.

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