Plastic-bottle boat completes voyage across Pacific

Plastiki, constructed of more than 12,000 discarded soft-drink bottles, arrives in Australia after an 11,000-mile journey.

Plastiki expedition leader David de Rothschild (left) talks to another crew member just minutes before the all-plastic boat set sail. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Plastiki, a boat constructed of discarded soft-drink bottles, arrived Monday in Sydney, Australia, completing an 11,000-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean intended to draw attention to the way humans treat the environment.

The 60-foot catamaran set sail from Sausalito, Calif., just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, on March 20. Buoyancy was provided by more 12,000 recycled 2-liter bottles donated by Waste Management, which were washed, cleaned, and pressurized before being installed in the boat's twin pontoons.

Banking heir and expedition leader David de Rothschild runs the Adventure Ecology educational organization and is the mastermind behind the Plastiki project, which, among other things, aims to change people's perception of garbage. Today, most plastic bottles in the U.S. are not recycled, according to environmental organizations, and instead end up in the world's landfills and oceans.

"If we really want to move from Planet 1.0 to Planet 2.0, we need to really start taking action and stop just talking," de Rothschild has said.

An array of green gadgets accompanied the Plastiki crew on its voyage: flexible solar panels, two wind turbines, and a trailing turbine generation and propulsion system. The vessel also houses a vacuum water evaporator for desalination and a urine-to-water recovery system.

During the past four months, the crew has gone through some exciting moments, including a scary wind storm that featured winds that shifted direction more than 100 degrees and gusted at 63 knots. In an instant message interview with my colleague Daniel Terdiman on July 14, de Rothschild said he has been very impressed at how the craft was performing on the high seas .

"The boat is holding up well. I have been very impressed with the Seretex, the material," he said. "Like with all boats there are repairs and things start to fatigue. But she really is standing up and showing how we can use waste as a resource and how we can start to design smarter. At the end of the day waste is bad design."

Another inspiration for the voyage was the Kon-Tiki expedition, Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 trip across the Pacific in a boat that was a reproduction of an Inca raft. Among the Plastiki's six crew members was Olav Heyerdahl, Thor's grandson.

 

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