Innovative engineer wins top prize in recycling contest

An innovative engineer with roots in Cordova has won first prize in the Mid-Valley Recycling’s contest with his entry of making picnic tables out of recycled plastics.

Patrick Simpson’s PKS Consulting received a $5,000 cash award from the nonprofit entity — which will be used to make several picnic tables to be placed at various locations throughout the Matanuska-Susitna Valley — to demonstrate one of the applications of PKS Consulting’s Grizzly Wood, a type of lumber made entirely of recycled plastic in Alaska.

Mid Valley Recycling, in Big Lake, collaborated with the Valley Center for Recycling Solutions and the Mat-Su Health Foundation to sponsor the competition to create new products from recycled materials, including plastic, paper, aluminum or Styrofoam.

Grizzly Wood was conceived by Simpson, a born-and-raised Cordovan and PKS Consulting’s president, who is receiving funding from the Environmental Research Agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program. 

Simpson said he sees this system as a game changer for rural coastal communities throughout Alaska — where landfills are filling fast, or are already full, and where plastics are plentiful, saying “shipping costs would make a traditional approach infeasible.” 

Simpson said he hopes that through programs like this, “plastic can be viewed as a local resource and not as trash.”