Local company assists with plastic recycling in Port Townsend

Posted 11/3/22

People are often proud of how many credit cards they have in their wallet, but how about in their stomach?

Americans are consuming about 5 grams of plastic every week, which is the equivalent of a …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Local company assists with plastic recycling in Port Townsend


People are often proud of how many credit cards they have in their wallet, but how about in their stomach?

Americans are consuming about 5 grams of plastic every week, which is the equivalent of a credit card, according to an analysis by the World Wildlife Fund and carried out by the University of Newcastle in Australia.

One Port Townsend company is doing their best to keep that plastic out of human bodies and the environment.

PT Potential was started in 2018 when Roarke Jennings and Andy Eisenberg put their minds and wallets together to build a shredder that takes plastic products and tears them into tiny bits that can then be used to make new products.

“The shreds themselves are a global commodity,” Jennings said. “In most markets you can buy them as a thing called ‘nurdles.’”

While a cute name and a marketable resource, nurdles in the wild are a big problem.

Preventing those bits from ending up in a fish, which a human might eat, is one of PT Potential’s main goals.

While Eisenberg has moved on from the project, Roarke and his team still have plenty of ideas for what to do with that plastic on a local level.

For instance, after sending it through the shredder, the nurdles can be used by local people designing with 3D printer technology.

“If someone in town has a 3D printer and a fairly affordable machine that makes their own filament, they could take our plastic shred, feed it into their filament machine, and then they would be able to make their own filament for their 3D printer,” said Ronnie Crusta, who has taken a worker-owner pledge with the company and works on research and development.

Much of Crusta’s R&D these days has come down to playing with what the team can make using a panini press.

“I’ve made some really ugly buttons,” Crusta said.

They’ve also made things like tote bags, weavings, and even party decorations out of chip bags.

“They’re all still in the sort of ugly teenager phase; they don’t particularly look like the swans they could be someday,” Crusta said.

To mature their work, PT Potential has started a fundraising drive on Kickstarter with the goal of adding a plastic extruder, sheet press, and 3D printer to their workshop.

“We’re not trying to make a lot of things to sell to a regional or global market, we’re trying to make various things that will serve the needs of our community to try to keep it local,” Roarke said.

They’ve surveyed the community online and in person at the Port Townsend Food Co-op to find out what people want them to make.

“Depending on what is needed or voiced by the community, there are different molds that you can put on the end and the plastic gets extruded into a mold,” Roarke said. “The extruder has been demonstrated to make things like 2-by-4s and nice tile-type shapes. You can also make 3D filament with it, which would enable us to make a greater variety without the need for such a collection of molds.”

“It’s a pretty versatile machine,” he added.

Another passion project is combining the recycling aspect with other sustainability projects like composting.

“With the extruder we could almost immediately make beams and then we could construct stackable worm bins that we could then find a way to get out to the community to increase the amount of composting that people are able to do in small spaces,” Crusta said.

While still a small organization that’s entirely volunteer-run, they can’t help but think big.

“In a way, the organization is about appropriate technology in general, and so how could we use this material to also help solve some of our other challenges that we’re facing,” Roarke said.

The team also tries to find ways to help the community reduce its reliance on plastic.

“We ask people a lot of times, ‘What plastic can you not avoid in our life?’” Crusta said.

It’s recently become even more of an issue as the county has changed the rules on what plastic they’ll accept, going down to jugs — like milk containers and detergent bottles — and buckets.

This is in large part because while 52 percent of recycling facilities accept things like cups and containers, often with a “5” marking, less than 5 percent of it is actually repurposed and the rest ends up in a landfill, according to a study by Greenpeace.

“That’s why we wanted to come in and help pick up the slack,” Crusta said.

“We’re mainly targeting 2, 4, and 5,” Roarke said referring to the markings which indicate the grade of plastic which is tied to its thermal properties.

So far, they’ve got a contract with the Food Co-op to collect some of their plastic waste that the county doesn’t have a market for, and are working to add to that collection list while finding other businesses that need products made.

“The Green Crow Taqueria has approached us and they were kind of curious and in need of chip baskets. And that’s something that we’re pretty serious about making — once we get some new tools,” Roarke said.

The group also hosts Pop-Up Drop-Offs twice a month where community members can bring plastic items like caps, lids, and can carriers.

To finish out the year, they’ll be offering a view of what they can do by livestreaming their current machine in action during a “Bi-annual Community Shred Down” at both the Food Co-op (Nov. 5) and The Pourhouse (Nov. 12).

Those interested in furthering PT Potential’s project can find a link to their Kickstarter, as well as more information about their events, at