The Plastiki Boat: A New Kind of Bottle Plastic Recycling

The Plastiki.  It’s not just any boat.  It’s a boat housing a crew on a mission to raise awareness in order to solve the problem of plastic waste and its harm on our environment.  This may seem like nothing special, but there’s more to the equation.

The boat is made out of recycled plastic – more specifically, recycled PET (a material used in most plastic bottles) and an experimental fabric called self-reinforcing PET (srPET), woven from PET fibers.  The Plastiki’s 60-foot-long hull is made from 12,500 plastic 2-liter bottles which are squeezed and filled with 12 grams of powdered dry ice, then capped and heat sealed with recycled plastic.  The dry ice turns into a gas and pressurizes the bottles with carbon dioxide.  As the boat moves, water runs between the bottles. The boat’s 60-foot-high mast is an irrigation pipe, with a camera attached.

This two-ton boat travels an average speed of five knots (which is the same as an average jogger) and can travel up to 200 miles a day.  Powered by wind turbines, solar panels and two stationary bicycle generators used by the crew for exercise, the Plastiki is currently on a 10,000-mile Pacific voyage from San Francisco, CA to Australia.  The crew is using this time to explore environmental hotspots filled with marine debris, plastic pollution and damaged coral reef, drawing attention to the harm that plastic waste causes to the environment.

The crew is living quite the “green” lifestyle during this voyage, which will take several months.  Fresh food is grown in a hydroponic vertical garden attached to the back mast and watered with urine, along with a sprout garden for growing herbs.  No refrigeration on board means that food is dehydrated or canned, and there is a gas stove to cook hot meals.   A freshwater catchment system in the cabin top collects rainwater for drinking and washing.  A vacuum water evaporator also desalinates sea water, turning it in to drinking water.  The cabin, which is removable for land use, houses a composting toilet that uses earthworms and coconut husks to break down waste.

Before you attempt to ponder the ironic symbolism of a plastic boat keeping a crew of anti-plastic environmentalists afloat on the vast Pacific Ocean, visit the official Plastiki website to track the voyage, view photos and videos, and read the crew’s blog.  If you decide that saving the planet is important, you can go to My Plastiki to make a pledge to reduce plastic waste by eliminating plastic bottles, plastic bags and Styrofoam from your lifestyle.  The crew is seeking to get 12,500 pledges – one for every plastic bottle used to build the boat.

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