A state funded program to rid Alaska’s coastline of marine debris will have removed an anticipated 160,000 to 200,000 pounds of debris this year, but the problem now is what to do with thousands of pounds more to come.
Dave Gaudet, director of the Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation in Juneau, says AMSF has hit a sag, in that the Washington State recycling firm that AMSF has worked with for years is not taking new shipments, due to poor markets for the materials. AMSF is begun engaging in a pilot program with a Canadian recycling firm, one that Gaudet said he hopes will provide a long-term solution to disposing of plastic marine debris.
These projects are funded through the state‘s Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development’s Community Impact Assessment Program.
The problem AMSF is running into is what to do with the thousands of pounds of debris collected and bagged. Skagit River Steel and Recycling, the Washington state recycling firm that AMSF has been working with for many years is not currently accepting shipments, due to poor markets for the material.
AMSF is now engaged in a pilot program with Plastic Shores, a Vancouver, British Columbia recycling firm, which Gaudet said he hopes will provide a long-term solution to the problem of disposing of plastic marine debris. Gaudet said Plastic Shores is trying to establish a program to melt down the plastics and get plastic users to reuse this product. AMSF ships the plastic to Seattle, where it is then transported by Plastic Shores to Vancouver. “We are just happy to get it out of Alaska and not put it into a landfill,” he said.
Reports of debris from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami have generally decreased. However, at one cleanup at Cape Suckling, on Prince William Sound, the contractor reported a large influx of debris following the storms the week of Oct. 21.
The contractor reported a large amount of what appeared to be household items with Japanese writing on them appearing on the beach that had just been cleared of approximately 55,000 pounds of marine debris.
Meanwhile at Nelson Lagoon, another 80,000 pounds of marine debris – mostly line and buoys and nets – is bagged up, but a recycling location has not yet been identified.
More information on the program is at www.Alaskamsf.org