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Anacortes couple turns ocean plastics into prosthetics

Plastics on our beaches and in our oceans are killing marine life and poisoning the planet. An Anacortes couple is taking that plastic to make some good.
Chris and Laura Moriarty run the Million Waves Project.

Chris and Laura Moriarty are turning plastic found in Northwest waters into prosthetic hands for people around the world.

The Anacortes couple saw the massive issue of plastics polluting oceans and combined it with the need for plastic prosthetic limbs.

It came to Chris Moriarty in the middle of the night, as his ideas often do.

"I woke my poor wife up and asked her to evaluate," he said.

From that vision came a project the Moriartys hope will, quite literally, give the world a hand.

"We thought, wouldn't it make a lot of sense to take something deplorable in one sense and something heartbreaking in another, put them together and see what we could do," said Chris.

Two months later, from their humble home office in Anacortes, they're trying to solve both.

Using plastic they've found on their local beach, Laura and Chris started the Million Waves Project.

It takes just 15 plastic bottles, $45 and two-and-a-half days to make one hand. The couple uses open source software, a company that processes the plastic into filament and a 3-D printer.

"It's just a cool feeling to take something so simple and make a huge impact on someone's life," says retired pediatric nurse Jodi Shafer, who consults on the project.

The team currently partners with Washington CoastSavers, a non-profit that picks up plastics along the coast.

The plan in the near future is to buy a commercial shredder, partner with groups currently working to fish plastics from the giant garbage patch in the Pacific and give free limbs to the estimated 40,000 people around the globe who need them.

"It is daunting. Life is daunting," said Laura. "But like we tell our kids, that doesn't mean you don't move forward and try."

In just two months they've distributed 16 prosthetics. It's just a handful in the big picture, but they're making a dent.

"If we get enough dents, we can make a significant impact," Chris said.

For $45, donors get a keychain and a photo of the specific person their limb will be made for.

"The beautiful thing is, anyone can do this," he said. "We can all do our part."

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