There are billions of plastic bottles in the oceans, forming huge islands of floating debris. David de Rothschild, a dashing 30-year-old heir to a British banking fortune, is combating the plastic waste atolls with a novel idea. He’s building a boat from used plastic bottles.
“Originally we planned to use trash, but plastic bottles turned out to be the best material”, says Jo Royle.
“It’s also a way of doing something positive instead of just pointing out that disposable bottles are a dumb use of plastic.”
Royle, a 29-year-old ocean racer, will pilot de Rothschild’s ship from San Francisco to Sydney later this year. The vessel was christened Plastiki, after Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki.
At a San Francisco dock, 15 employees of de Rothschild’s organization, Adventure Ecology, are currently constructing the Plastiki from 12,000 plastic bottles.
“The challenge is working with a material that has never been used for boats before”, says Royle. “The Plastiki is hard to manoeuvre. But it’s definitely not a raft; it’s a big vessel.” So big, in fact, that the crew will grow their own vegetables onboard.
When Josi Heyerdahl, Thor Heyerdahl’s granddaughter, learned about the Plastiki, she wrote to de Rothschild, who then invited her aboard the upcoming voyage. The 26-year-old conservation expert will research people’s interactions with the ocean.
“Plastic in the ocean is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind issue”, she says. “My grandfather inspired people to do things they thought impossible. And changing your lifestyle can be as great an adventure as going on the Plastiki. I hope we’ll inspire people to give up disposable bottles.”