Made from 12,500 reclaimed plastic soda bottles, the Plastiki sailboat is about to reach Sydney on the final leg of its 11,000 nautical mile trans-Pacific voyage.
Having sailed 115 days and more than 2,700 hours to date, the 60-foot catamaran set out from San Francisco on March 20 in an effort to raise awareness about the health of oceans, heavily polluted by plastic debris and at risk from over-fishing, and to showcase waste as a resource and demonstrate real world solutions through design and construction.
The plastic bottles provide 68 percent of the boat’s buoyancy, with the super structure being comprised of a unique recyclable plastic material made from self reinforcing PET. The mast is made of reclaimed aluminum irrigation pipe and the sail is hand-made from recycled PET cloth.
The boat also utilizes secondary bonding made from a newly developed cashew nut and sugar cane organic glue and features renewable energy systems including solar panels, wind and trailing propeller turbines, bicycle generators, a urine to water recovery and rain water catchment system and a hydroponic rotating cylinder garden.
The Plastiki project began more than four years ago, dreamed up by British adventurer and ecologist David de Rothschild, heir to the Rothschild family banking fortune. The idea was spawned from David’s reading of a UNEP report called “Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas” and was inspired by Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 expedition, The Kon-Tiki.
The Plastiki expedition began with the question: “could a fully recyclable performing vessel be engineered almost entirely out of reclaimed plastic bottles, cross the Pacific whilst demonstrating real world solutions?” If the team reaches Sydney as expected, it appears the answer is “yes.”
Don’t let the fact the boat is made of reclaimed plastic materials lead you to thinking it’s not a sturdy, sea-worthy vessel. During testing, the plastic bottles were stress tested to ensure their strength under pressure. They held up even when ran over by a car!
The boat has crossed through the North Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating trash pile estimated to be twice the size of Texas, and has made a stop on the island of Kiribati on the way to Sydney.