Project Would Convert Plastic Ocean Waste to Bricks

PKS Consulting is looking to convert plastic garbage, such as that pictured here, into construction industry materials. Image: PKS Consulting.

An engineer with a background in Alaska’s commercial fisheries is working to recycle plastic garbage retrieved from oceans into construction industry materials, including plastic bricks.

Patrick Simpson, president and chief executive officer of PKS Consulting, grew up in a fishing family in Cordova, Alaska. He worked his way up from crew to being a vessel captain, then studied engineering in college. He embarked on various commercial fisheries-related research projects, one being getting plastics out of oceans and recycling them into useable products.

His latest grant, funded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will help him design a Mobile PET Plastic Ocean Waste Recycler Module. PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, is a clear, strong, lightweight and 100% recyclable plastic being retrieved in large quantities from oceans or waters bound for oceans.

His project aims to design a module capable of locally producing recycled plastic brick for construction projects, out of plastics that were ocean bound, as well as retrieved from oceans.

In phase one of the project, he designed two modules for processing these plastics, one for sorting, cleaning, grinding and drying the plastics, and a second to convert polyethylene, polypropylene and polyamide into plastic lumber. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was not used.

“We propose to utilize this PET as feedstock in the production of solid plastic bricks that can be used for light construction,” Simpson said.

He is collaborating on the project with the Palmer, Alaska-based manufacturing firm Triverus, LLC, which produces mobile cleaning systems for the U.S. Navy.