More than 31 million tons of plastic are thrown away each year in the U.S. alone, and since much of this waste winds up in our oceans, this clearly has massive implications for marine life. Adventurer and explorer Derek de Rothschild came up with a unique way to draw attention to this overwhelming environmental problem. He built a six-person catamaran out of 12,500 plastic bottles and sailed it 8,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean with his crew.
Some thought it couldn’t be done. No boat could be built almost entirely of recyclable materials, they thought, still less a vessel the majority of whose structure and floatation came down to ordinary plastic bottles. Derek de Rothschild and his naval architect Andy Dovell proved them all wrong with the Plastiki.
The hull was made of a new recyclable plastic and two thirds of the buoyancy came from the plastic bottles. To give the bottles the strength they needed for both structural and buoyancy needs, a few grams of dry ice were put in them which pressurized the bottles with carbon dioxide gas. The mast was made of 95% recycled aluminum and the sails from recycled plastic trash, ensuring this was a very green boat!
To further make the catamaran as eco-friendly as possible, the team relied on other reusable energy as well. Solar panels, wind turbines and energy bikes were just some of the green technology used on the long journey. The crew even planted a vegetable garden to grow some of their own food.
The crew and boat managed to complete the 8,000 mile voyage from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia in 128 days, drawing attention to the environment every step of the way. Global warming, ocean acidification and the ever-present trash from plastic bottles and bags have to be dealt with by our generation or there will be far fewer pristine spots on earth to enjoy. Adventures like these remind us of our responsibility to this world as both consumers and guardians.
On the 21st of April, 2011, at 8pm EST, National Geographic Channel will be airing “The 12,000 Bottle Boat”, showing the full exciting journey of the Plastiki and its crew. Be sure to tune in.