Explorer, environmentalist, and British celebrity David de Rothschild will set out on a 11,000-mile (17,703-kilometer) journey across the Pacific Ocean at the end of March—in a boat made of plastic bottles.
Created from a special composite of recycled plastic, de Rothschild's boat is a 60-foot (18-meter) catamaran called Plastiki.
De Rothschild will steer the fiberglass-like frame, made buoyant by the addition of 12,000 two-liter plastic bottles along the hulls, from San Francisco to Sydney—with several island stops—on an exploration of plastic litter—the most common in the type of ocean pollution.
But that's not all. The expedition is also a way to highlight how materials can be re-used, said de Rothschild, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and founder of the nonprofit Adventure Ecology. (National Geographic News is owned by the National Geographic Society.)
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"It's about articulating solutions," de Rothschild said. "We are showcasing smart materials, and all of these have an effect that can go much further." For instance, there may be uses for this type of recycled plastic in commercial boats, surfboards, cars, and more.
Fifteen billion pounds (7 billion kilograms) of plastic are produced annually in the U.S., but only 1 billion pounds (.5 billion kilograms) are recycled, according to Adventure Ecology.
A lot of the bottles that aren't repurposed end up end floating out to sea. The Great Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, where ocean currents shepherd much of this debris, is twice the size of Texas.
When Plastiki's voyage is over, the boat will be broken down and turned into emergency shelters, shipping pellets, clothes, and even more bottles.
"As we get more and more urban we're going to have be more clever with our waste stream," said Nathaniel Corum, a Plastiki architect and the expedition's sustainability consultant.