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Plastic and fishing gear turned into building materials in Nova Scotia

Thursday, June 25th 2020, 4:28 pm - Discarded fishing gear is harmful to ocean-dwellers, and one Nova Scotia company has found a way to give it new life as synthetic lumber.

When you pull up to Good Plastic Products in Fort Ellis, Nova Scotia, It looks like your typical lumber yard.

Pickup trucks loading up material for a construction project, like building a new deck.

But no trees were cut down for this lumber: it's 100 per cent recycled material.

Prior to 2018, most of Canada's plastic was being sent overseas to Asian markets, predominantly China, which was the world's largest plastic importer. When the country announced it would be limiting almost all imports of recyclables, Mike Chassie saw an opportunity.

"That suddenly flooded the market with an excess of material and that really gave us an opportunity to start to use our own process where we were going to manufacture plastic lumber from this recyclable plastic," Chassie, who is the vice president of Goodwood Plastic Products, tells me.

His operation primarily uses a mix of film plastics like shopping bags, garbage bags and blue bags, along with HDPE plastic from products like milk jugs and margarine containers.

When the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans put out a challenge to companies to come up with a solution to recycle end of life fishing gear, Chassie dove right in.

Ghost gear and ship rope are designed to be strong, so breaking them down isn't easy, but he found a way to do it.

"When we first started out we were cutting it into small coils and we were trying to shred it. We've had lots of issues trying to shred it with what we're currently doing but with the new equipment that we have coming, we'll be able to just take the rope and just throw it in," he says.

Phase one of the project was to incorporate it into lumber, and they just received $475,000 as part of phase two to invest in commercializing and scaling up that part of the business so they can start looking for more rope and net to recycle.

"What's on the horizon for plastic recycling is great. I think that we're starting to see a fundamental shift in everybody's minds and governments and people and just your average joe that we need to collectively do something to recycle this plastic. One of the most important things for businesses like ours to survive is that we need governments to buy into this type of stuff. There are lots of uses for our plastic products that could replace wood products in the right applications," Chassie says.

The plastic lumber is more expensive upfront than pressure-treated lumber or cedar, but Chassis says there are very low maintenance costs over time because the plastic is inorganic, so it won't rot and is stronger than wood.

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