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How a million old plastic bags and 64 km of fishing rope became a new dock

An entrepreneur in Stewiacke, N.S., hopes a new wharf in Hubbards will inspire Nova Scotians to use recycled plastic lumber in marine applications.

“Be able to walk on it, you know, touch it and get a good feel for the advantage that we can have by using the recycled material,” Dan Chassie, president of Goodwood Plastic Products, said.  

Goodwood Plastic Products grinds up recycled plastic at its factory in Stewiacke and extrudes the plastic lumber in sizes from two-by-fours up to eight-inch-by-eight-inch beams.

Chassie claims his plastic boards will last many times longer than marine-grade, pressure-treated wood.

“Instead of having something that is going to last maybe 10 years, it’s going to last a couple of lifetimes,” Chassie said. 

The boards making up this new dock represent one million recycled plastic bags and 64 kilometres of recycled half-inch nylon fishing rope. (CBC)

The boards on Greg Veinot’s wharf in Hubbards Cove cost him roughly $6,500. 

They represent one million recycled plastic bags and 64 kilometres of recycled half-inch nylon fishing rope.

“I feel good about it … keep all that stuff out of the landfill, and get to use it over again,” Veinot said. “And this time [it] won’t be going back to the landfill, it’ll be here for another few years.”

Veinot rebuilt his wharf himself, using galvanized steel beams on top of the original steel pilings. 

He says working with the plastic lumber was easier than wood, because he could sink screws near the ends of the boards without issue. 

Dan Chassie is the president of Goodwood Plastic Products. (CBC)

“When you drill wood, screw wood, it’ll split and crack on you a lot of times. This stuff doesn’t do that,” said Veinot.

Chassie said his recycled plastic lumber cost more than pressure-treated wood before the pandemic, but market changes since then have made his product cheaper.

“Before COVID, we were hovering around 20 per cent higher than pressure treated wood. But now pressure treated wood has taken such a jump that in some cases, customers tell us that we’re less expensive,” Chassie said. 

His company has also turned old plastics into part of a paving project at a parking lot.

Interest from industry

Ed Chisholm, the port manager for Digby harbour, said he’s heard of plastic lumber and is intrigued by the potential environmental and financial advantages. 

“I think the durability is going to be there, and holding up in the marine environment,” he said. “Recycling and getting rid of this rope is a big plus factor for us.”

Chisholm said his port may be building more floating docks in the future and he’d like to give the product a try. 

He wants to ensure that plastic boards will give workers enough grip in wet or icy weather. 

“If we go ahead, I’ll certainly be looking to get some in place and test it out for sure,” he said. 

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