Mobile Plastic Ocean Waste Recycler

EPA Contract Number: 68HERC22C0040
Title: Mobile Plastic Ocean Waste Recycler
Investigators: Simpson, Patrick K
Small Business: PKS Consulting, Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: II
Project Period: January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2023
Project Amount: $400,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II (2022) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Plastic Ocean Waste (POW) is accumulating in our oceans and on our beaches at an accelerating rate. Eight million metric tons (8M MT) of plastic is entering the world's oceans each year at a rate of one ton per minute. Alaska represents 53% of the U.S. coastline. During Phase I, we estimated the amount of POW accumulating on Alaska's shorelines at 34,500 to 51,700 MT/yr at a rate of three ton per hour.

Regulation and taxation strategies are being proposed to stem this tide of POW. Reuse and recycling campaigns also help. These approaches are focusing on the source and are beginning to find traction. However, there remains the problem of the growing accumulation of POW on the world's shorelines.

Methods are needed to (1) increase the collection of POW, and (2) reduce the amount of Ocean Bound Plastic. Coastal communities have participated in beach clean ups and local residential recycling, yet they tend to lose momentum. Programs that incentivize collection through return deposits, pay-as-you-throw, or purchase of recylcates have been effective. A step toward building a successful incentive program is the development of a local and visible utilization capability.

Converting recycled plastic into products used locally provides a significant motivator for participation. These efforts can be improved by offering compensation for recycled plastic. POW can be collected by local fishers and boaters and purchased in port. Residential recycling can offer compensation for sorted and cleaned plastics at recycling centers. Lauding participation through social media is an amplifier. The challenge is the development of a feasible local recycling system that can convert plastics to products. The solution is a Mobile Plastic Ocean Waste Recycler deployed in multiple coastal communities.

During Phase II, we will demonstrate the viability of the Mobile Plastic Ocean Waste Recycler by building a system that can conduct pilot demonstrations in two coastal Alaska communities: Seward and Cordova. Key results are aligned in four areas. Technical Viability -- process at least 111 MT of plastic material. Financial Viability -- generate at least $245,000 in product sales. Social Viability -- process at least 56 MT of Plastic Ocean Waste and End-of-Life Nets. Operational Viability -- operate in at least two coastal communities. Achieving these key results places this project in a strong position to receive the follow-on funding needed to support growth and expansion with the long-term objective to expand worldwide.

SBIR Phase I:

Mobile Plastic Ocean Waste Recycler  | Final Report