On March 22 this year, Adventure Ecology founder and environmentalist David de Rosthschild, along with his crew, set sail from San Francisco on the Plastiki, a unique 60-foot catamaran engineered from approximately 12, 500 reclaimed plastic bottles and srPET, a fully recyclable material.
And last week, 7500 nautical miles later, the boat anchored in Mooloolaba, Queensland, not too far off from the team’s originally planned destination of Sydney.
The expedition arose as a means of drawing attention to the issues of waste pollution.
In the initial concept phase, Rothschild invited a team of experts to help answer 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?”
The design inspiration was a fruity one, with the structure taken largely from the formation of a pomegranate, which packs together many soft seeds to create a hard outer structure. The designers knew that fitting the plastic bottles together, like the seeds of the pomegranate, would be key.
After experimenting with a range of materials it was decided that the Plastiki structure would be made almost entirely out of a new material called Seretex, a self re- enforcing PET.
The Plastiki was made by welding sections of Seretex panels together to form the basic boat structure around which the bottles are fastened.
Once the basic hull structure of the prototype was finished, the bottles were added.
After testing numerous prototypes, the Plastiki team settled on using approximately 12,500 reclaimed plastic soft-drink bottles that were fixed into pontoons. The bottles provide the boat with 68 percent of its buoyancy.
A smooth hull exterior is essential to boat building, and to ensure the Plastiki was as streamlined as possible, the bottles were filled with dry ice, making them solid and consistent – whilst retaining their lightness and buoyancy.
Architecture for Humanity, the international sustainable and disaster relief organisation, were involved in the design process for the entire development.
Architecture for Humanity's Nathaniel Corum was inspired by natural biomimicry, which incorporates designs already existing in nature. For the Plastiki design, Corum took inspiration from eggshells for the cabin design. Whilst thin, they're capable of withstanding tough outside pressure.
The original motivation behind the building of the boat came four years ago when de Rothschild read a report “Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas‟ by UNEP, which indicated that the world’s oceans were in serious threat from pollution, in particular plastic waste.
For more about the Plastiki, click here.