Mobile Plastic Ocean Waste Recycler

EPA Contract Number: 68HERC21C0027
Title: Mobile Plastic Ocean Waste Recycler
Investigators: Simpson, Patrick K
Small Business: PKS Consulting, Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2021 through August 31, 2021
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2021) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Problem. The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking proposals that will improve the U.S. recycling system. PKS Consulting is an Alaska-based small technology firm that proposes the development of a Mobile Plastic Ocean Waste (POW) Recycler that can be moved from community to community to produce Recycled Plastic Lumber (RPL) products from locally collected POW. Fishing gear is primarily composed of Polyamide (PA), Polyethylene (PE), and Polypropylene (PP).

Significance. Producing useful and profitable products from this abundance of POW presents several challenges, including: collection, cleaning, sorting, and processing. If the material is not cleaned well, processing is problematic. Also, a significant impact on feasibility is the remote locations where POW is collected; sometimes resulting in insurmountable logistical challenges.

Innovation. One primary challenge faced when producing POW products is the non-homogeneity of the material. Fishing gear is typically a mixture of PA, PP, and PE. The low melting point of PE and PP relative to PA allows the PA to remain stable and become a binder (similar to fiberglass) when added to a PE-based extrusion. This temperature difference will be used to combine shredded nylon (PA) web as the reinforcement material in a Recycled Plastic Lumber (RPL) product that combines two POW waste streams – beach debris and EoL fishing gear.

During Phase I, we will: (1) formalize the POW collection process; (2) perform laboratory testing of PE/PP/PA combinations to determine the best combination ranges for RPL production; (3) design the Mobile POW Recycler; (4) develop the operational plan; and (5) secure additional Phase II funding.

During Phase II, we will: (1) build the Mobile POW Recycler; (2) deploy the Mobile POW Recycler in at least one Alaska community for a pilot demonstration; and (3) secure additional funding for market expansion in Phase III. Commercialization. The proposed effort will produce RPL from the End-of-Life (EoL) fishing gear and marine debris collected from the beach. The commercialization strategy for the RPL products is to produce and sell the product locally. The commercialization plan is to develop the Recycler for use in one region of Alaska before expanding to the remainder of Alaska and then down the West Coast.

Following Phase II, additional Recyclers will be built and deployed in the other Alaska fishing regions before moving south to the West Coast. This expansion will result in Gross Revenue (RPL Income) growth from $3.7M in 2022 to $71.5M in 2028 and $146.8M in 2033