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Book review: Plastiki

Could a fully recyclable performing vessel be engineered almost entirely out of reclaimed plastic bottles, cross the Pacific while demonstrating real world solutions?
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Across the Pacific on Plastic, An Adventure to Save Our Oceans

By David de Rothschild • (Chronicle Books, 2011) $60

“Could a fully recyclable performing vessel be engineered almost entirely out of reclaimed plastic bottles, cross the Pacific while demonstrating real world solutions?” That’s the ambitious question asked by Adventure Ecology founder and environmentalist David de Rothschild when he struck upon a novel idea to draw attention to the issue of plastic waste pollution in our oceans. The answer to his question was yes. But don’t worry, that doesn’t ruin the premise of this book, which charts the journey of de Rothschild and his crew as they set sail on March 22, 2010 from San Francisco, eventually anchoring in Sydney some 8,000 nautical miles later.

The crew certainly encountered some choppy challenges along the way, including broken masts and near collisions. But while de Rothschild’s tale at sea makes for compelling reading, it’s not the only enjoyable part of the book. After all, the boat was engineered from 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and that feat alone begs curiosity from an engineering and design perspective.

You’d probably never guess, for example, that the boat was crafted on principles of biomimicry—more specifically, pomegranates. If you can’t wrap your head around that, there’s many a picture to bring the concept to life. In fact the book makes good use of infographics to help bring facts on plastic waste to life and, spliced with seafaring tales, it makes for a refreshing read.