Recyclable Plastiki sailing on plastic sea
A boat made out of more than 12,000 used plastic water bottles is on its way to Sydney, Australia, thus attempting to prove several things: That it can be done; that trash can be useful; and that the huge swath of plastic trash and other debris known as the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch should never happen again.
David de Rothschild’s Plastiki – a 60-foot catamaran made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles – could also launch a new approach to boat-building, without fiberglass.
The Plastiki started on its 12,000 journey from San Francisco to Sydney recently with a goal of drawing attention to the health, or lack thereof, of the world’s oceans. The vessel’s itinerary is bringing it close to Hawaii, the Bikini Atoll, and the Tarawa Islands. Its course will follow the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where floating plastic covers an area twice the size of Texas.
de Rothschild, the youthful heir to the famous European banking fortune, environmentalist, adventurer and head of Adventure Ecology, is the driving force behind the Plastiki Expedition.
“This is the hundredth year of plastic,” de Rothschild said last May at the Greener by Design conference. “Plastic is an amazing material and it is still misunderstood. I’m trying to get people to think about plastic as part of the solution.”
Plastiki’s hull is made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles filled with carbon dioxide. Nearly everything on the boat from the hull to the sails is made from recycled materials. Solar panels, wind and sea turbines generate power. It has an on-board exercise bike to provide extra power for electronics, including a laptop. An onboard hydroponic garden provides fresh greens for the six-person crew, including de Rothschiled. The garden was designed by Inka Biospheric Systems, based in San Francisco.
The catamaran’s frame uses a new plastic product called self-reinforced polyethylene terephthalate, or srPET. Developed in Europe, it is similar in strength to fiberglass, but unlike fiberglass it is made of 100 percent recyclable plastic.
“We’re needlessly losing millions of seabirds and hundreds of thousands of marine mammals from ingesting plastic every year,” de Rothschild told ABC News. “I decided to take this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ problem and build a boat out of the very items that we were seeing ending up in our natural environment.”
You can track the voyage virtually in real time on the Plastiki blog.