Some describe it as a noble and impressively epic 8,000 nautical mile, four month long eco-awareness journey across the Pacific on a hull composed of 12,500 two liter PET plastic soda bottles. Others dismiss it as a glorified and ultimately pricey science fair project that required a coast guard tow to help it successful reach its final destination. Yes, we’re talking about David De Rothschild’s 60 foot Plastiki catamaran which set sail back in March from San Francisco, California. Whichever camp you belong in, it’s hard to deny the ‘cool factor’ of the ten person crew now that they’ve officially reached Sydney, Australia’s Darling Harbour after over 130 days at sea.
Committed to “highlight(ing) solutions to protect our oceans and beat (plastic) waste”, De Rothchild’s fully recyclable boat is impressive not only because it made the journey intact, but more specifically because it did so utilizing thousands of recycled plastic containers anchored together with cashew and sugar cane glue. Now that the journey is concluded, they might just use the Plasiki as a learning tool rather than dismantling it for the recycling pile as was originally the plan. One of the main goals of taking on such a risky endeavor has been to bring greater public awareness to ocean pollution and the consequent plight of marine creatures.
At current estimates, there are roughly 13,000 pieces of microscopic plastic waste in every kilometer of the world’s seas which De Rothschild acknowledges is challenging to “see at first.” Then, he says, you “realize that it is all like a soup, millions and millions of tiny fragments of plastic, suspended in the water. It is mostly microscopic, but once your eye adjusts you start to see the reflectiveness of some of the larger pieces. The red fragments stand out most clearly.” This highly toxic material has largely become the diet of seals, dolphins, turtles and whales that mistakenly think they are slurping up legitimate food sources.
Those in the Sydney area will be able to examine the Plastiki in the buff for the entire month of August at the Maritime Museum, from its bicycle-powered electricity generators and recycled plastic sails to its various other on-board renewable energy devices. Ultimately, De Rothschild hopes that we all remember that plastic “is not cheap, it’s not non-toxic, it’s not valueless. It’s valuable, it uses a lot of resources…. We need to start taking a serious look at the way we produce and design every product we use in our lives.”