PORT ANGELES — Composite Recycling Technology Center officials announced Thursday that the center’s first product will be the world’s first recycled aerospace-quality carbon fiber pickleball paddle.
The paddle will be distributed exclusively through Pickleball Central of Kent, which Dave Walter, CRTC’s chief operations officer, said is the largest pickleball distributor in the world.
“This is the most premium material ever applied to a pickleball paddle,” said Bob Larsen, CEO of CRTC in Port Angeles, at an event with Jay Williams, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.
The CRTC expects the paddles to be available online in March. The first shipment to Pickleball Central is expected to be at the end of February.
The paddles, which will sell for $99, are the first product in the world to be made from recycled aerospace-quality carbon fiber.
Prototypes have been out in the field, Larsen said.
Carbon fiber is many times stronger than steel and weighs less than half the weight of aluminum, but it was considered worthless and so 29 million pounds of the material ends up in landfills every year, Larsen said.
“Making pickleball paddles out of carbon fiber composite isn’t new — but making them out of scrap carbon fiber composite is groundbreaking,” he said.
“But today, CRTC is proving to the world that recycling it doesn’t just make good environmental sense; it makes good business sense.”
The Port of Port Angeles led the effort for the facility, which opened at 2138 W. 18th St. in September.
Supporters say the facility will bring 200 new jobs to Port Angeles over the next six years.
The game of pickleball was invented on Bainbridge Island in 1965 and is now the fastest-growing sport in North America, with about 3 million players globally, Larsen said.
Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center. It uses a perforated plastic ball similar to a whiffle ball and composite or wooden paddles about twice the size of pingpong paddles.
Williams announced a $500,000 i6 Challenge grant for CRTC as part of the Regional Innovation Strategies program.
“The Port Angeles Composite Recycling Technology Center is revolutionizing advanced manufacturing while creating jobs locally,” said Williams in a news release.
“As America’s Innovation Agency, the U.S. Department of Commerce plays a key role in supporting the entrepreneurs and job creators of tomorrow.”
The Washington State Clean Energy Fund also has invested $2.7 million in the CRTC’s work to develop and manufacture clean technology products and reduce waste from composite manufacturing, Larsen said.
The paddle is the first of many products to come, Larsen said. CRTC officials have told the Port of Port Angeles it would be self-sufficient by the end of 2017, he said.
“It’s really important to realize this is the beginning of our vision of launching a new industry based on recycling scrap carbon fiber,” he said.
“For the longest time, the conventional wisdom was this material had no value.”
Larsen said CRTC hopes to announce several more products by the end of 2017.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].