GOULDSBORO — Powered by the engine from a gas wood splitter, two large, flat pieces of metal gradually move toward each other, collapsing the lobster trap between them.
The machine, known as “lobster’s revenge,” crushes traps to a height of about 3 inches, so they can be stacked easily and take up much less space.
“We can put 50 traps in the space where we would typically put 15,” said Campbell “Buzz” Scott of Traps 2 Treasure, or T2T, a trap recycling program based in Gouldsboro. Traps 2 Treasure is a program of OceansWide, a nonprofit education foundation based in Newcastle. As its founder and executive director, Scott was teaching youth to scuba dive so they could earn their certifications.
“These kids were seeing traps that were abandoned with no lines on them,” said Scott.
With the idea of starting a recycling program, a group of students from Sumner Memorial High School began collecting old traps. One thing led to another and Traps 2 Treasure was born.
The recycling process starts with removal of several trap components, including the heads, bricks and runners. The process of preparing a trap for recycling takes about 10 minutes, said volunteer Becky O’Keefe of Gouldsboro.
Scott estimates a single individual can crush 50 to 100 traps a day. Currently, he crushes traps every Friday and O’Keefe crushes them on Sundays. A third volunteer, Vicki Rae, helps out when she can.
The operation had been staffed by students at Sumner who were earning community service credits toward graduation. However, because of precautions taken to avoid further spread of COVID-19, students are no longer able to take part in the project.
“It’s slowing us down considerably,” Scott said. “We’re starting to get work done, but we’re not getting it done as efficiently as before.”
Scott is not giving up, however, though he is considering hiring staff to assist until Sumner students can return to their role.
Despite that setback, things have been moving forward. The town of Gouldsboro is allowing T2T to use a 2-acre tract of land near the town transfer station for rent of $1 annually.
Grants funded the purchase of a workshop building that has been installed on the property. Donations made it possible to purchase a heating system for the building and some equipment. Some additional equipment has been donated.
Scott designed the crushing machine and, with the help of a friend, built it by modifying a wood splitter. Plans are to build a larger one with an electric motor that will be quieter and can be run inside, he said.
Scott said he wants to create a gravel pad at the site “so that fishermen can bring in their traps.” Unfortunately, T2T is not accepting traps at this time because of staffing issues.
“We have fishermen calling daily,” Scott said.
For now, the traps they can crush are being put on pallets. A single pallet of crushed traps weighs between 800 and 1,000 pounds.
“That’s too heavy for us to throw on the back of a truck,” Scott said.
Rowland’s Recycling in Steuben will accept the crushed traps for recycling. However, T2T needs a forklift and a big enough truck to be able to transport them. The organization is seeking donations of those items or money toward their purchase.
Scott said proper disposal of unused lobster traps will help the fisheries remain healthy.
“I believe the more traps we take out of the water, the better the fisheries will be, the healthier the fisheries will be,” he said, adding his students, who want to continue their families’ fishing traditions, agree.
For now, the recycling operation will concentrate on traps on land before turning its attention to those on the sea bottom.
O’Keefe said she got involved because of concerns for the environment.
“I really believe in it and I believe doing nothing is not OK,” she said.