A Boat Made Out of Bottles
Posted by Luke on May 9, 2010
Most people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s estimated to be twice the size the state of Texas comprised mainly of plastic litter. Scientists estimate that 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals die every year from ingesting or getting entangled with plastic.
Not as many people have heard about what a group called The Plastiki is doing to bring attention to the problem of marine litter as well as to recycling. A group of people got together and built a boat out of 12,000 plastic bottles to sail from San Francisco to Sydney. Right now they are halfway through their journey near the Line Islands in the middle of the Pacific. Their website has a really cool feature to track their every move.
What I like about the group’s approach is that they recognize plastics have both upsides and downsides. They acknowledge that plastic has a place in the world. However, they want to bring attention to importance of recycling plastic and the need to make products (like boats) out of recycled materials. One of the people behind the sea vessel, David de Rothschild, said, “Plastic is an amazing material and it is still misunderstood. I’m trying to get people to think about plastic as part of the solution.”
Less than 25% of the plastic bottles used in the U.S. end up being recycled. That’s the crux of the problem. Manufacturers have the capability to and are willing to make products out of recycled plastics. One of the biggest obstacles is accessing high quality reclaimed materials. With a dismal national recycling rate and increasing contamination in the recycling process, it’s difficult to make products from recycled materials.
Another challenge is that the recycling infrastructure is currently only setup to primarily recycle #1 and #2 bottles. All other containers (those big plastic containers that lettuce comes in, yogurt containers, and much more) are largely not recycled in the majority of recycling facilities even if people put them in the blue bin. The technology is not widespread enough to recycle those products into a quality stream of recovered materials. There isn’t enough market demand for them either. That’s why it’s important to “buy recycled.” It builds demand for recycled materials which encourages further recycling.
In the coming year, I’ll be working with some industry groups on understanding how we can solve this problem. Eco-Products has also launched a new product line of cups and containers made from up to 100% recycled bottles which further promotes the importance of buying recycled.