Recycled PET enlisted to save Louisiana shore

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NEW ORLEANS (Nov. 7, 1:45 p.m. ET) — Almost every hour, the Louisiana coastline loses a football field-sized piece of land.

And with it goes the region’s first line of defense against flooding and stability in the seafood, oil and gas industries, said Val Marmillion, managing director of America’s Wetland Foundation in Louisiana.

To give the wetlands a boost last month, the foundation teamed with numerous organizations, including the Coastal Conservation Association, Martin Ecosystems and oil company Shell to place 187 “floating islands,” made of recycled PET bottles, in shallow waters along Isle De Jean Charles, La. The islands are filled with native plants in an attempt to build an off-shore “reef” of new wetlands.

Marmillion said it’s important to “stimulate inventive ideas by small entrepreneurs” to see if restoration efforts can be effective in small, targeted projects like this one.

“People are migrating northward. It doesn’t take a storm for tides to rise,” he said. “The region is living in a disaster economy – Gustav, Ike, [Katrina]. The region has been so damaged. We’ve got our hands full as far as raising public awareness and its impact nationally.”

If all goes according to plan, the grasses from the floating islands will take root to the earth below, serving as an anchor. In turn, the islands will trap sediment from the flowing water to form land.

Baton Rouge, La.-based Martin Ecosystems developed the islands, which are 5-foot-by-8-foot pallets of recycled PET with a Brillo pad-like texture. The company, members of local Indian tribes and children placed the structures in the water.

Two saltwater plants, smooth cordgrass and seashore paspalum, were planted into holes on the islands and secured with peat, said Nicole Waguespack, co-owner of Martin Ecosystems.

The islands are connected with a stainless steel cable and solidified by anchors that are driven into the soil 15 to 18 feet deep until reaching clay.

A complete version of this story is available at www.wasterecyclingnews.com.