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San Francisco's popular Pier 31 is bustling with excitement this month - and it's not the sea lions causing the buzz, but a group of amazing youngsters who are building Plastiki, a 60-ft Catamaran - made entirely out of plastic bottles and other plastic waste.
The frame of the boat was constructed by sandwiching plastic foam between 'cloth-like' sheets, manufactured from recycled plastic. The deck and cabin are going to be built using similar material. For the twin hulls, the group plans to use between 12,000 -13,000 plastic bottles - the kind used for water or soda. To ensure that the entire boat can be recycled once the trip is complete, no artficial glue is being used. Instead, they are using a combination of cashewnuts and sugar to stick the bottles together.
The project is the brainchild of 30-year old David de Rothschild, founder of Adventure Ecology, a non-profit educational foundation. David picked plastic as his medium, because he wanted to highlight one of our biggest pollution problems. Plastic not only takes a lot of energy to manufacture, but also, take hundreds of years to degrade.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, over 5 million tons of plastic enters our oceans each year. While some of it floats above the water, the smaller pieces get carried by the currents and accumulate in certain areas - the most famous of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 500-miles of plastic toxic waste that extends from California all the way to the Sea of Japan. Two additonal areas of plastic waste have been discovered, one near the Antarctica and the other, off the coast of Chile, South America (www.dogonews.com/2008/05/11/gorilla). Each year, over 100,000 mammals choke on these debris, and die.
The Plastiki is scheduled to leave San Francisco in April and sail all the way to Sydney, Australia. David plans to stop along the way and educate both adults and kids about the impacts of plastic pollution. Four scientists from the Scripps Research Institute, will join David to study the effects of pollution on marine life. David will write about his daily adventures on his website, http://www.adventureecology.com/.
While the technology behind Plastiki is more sophisticated, this is not the first bottle ship to sail our oceans. Last year, two eco-mariners, Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Pascal, set sail from Long Beach, California to Hawaii in their boat Junk, which was built on six pontoons (hulls that run lengthwise from front to back), filled with 15,000 plastic bottles (video below).
We wish Plastiki and its crew the best of luck, and believe that we can all contribute to David's mission to save the Earth - one plastic bottle at a time!
Sources: Sfgate.com, mnn.com, popsci.com