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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.


3 Responses to “A Boat Made Out of Bottles”

  1. Kimbirly said

    I’ve been a fan of ECO Products since your team presented to our staff at New Hope Natural Media where I worked at the time… I’ve followed you since and I so enjoy your blog and especially today’s post about the Plastiki. I saw Oprah’s broadcast and interview with David de Rothschild and loved learning about their quest on-board.

    I read your posts and always learn something or about someone promoting green things you can do at work and wanted to take a moment to introduce you to ConservingNow’s community. We have partnered with many organizations and municipalities but as an example, for Earth Day, we partnered with Grant Thornton (a leading global accounting firm) who distributed our reminder car window static clings to their 5500 U.S. based employees. Their goal was to go beyond the workplace and encourage their employees to eliminate the use of plastic bags in their lives.

    Gayle and Meghan Crowell are two Moms who are really passionate about the environment. In August 2009, they launched a community called It is all about eliminating plastic bags from the environment. The community members are passionate and concerned about future generations and what they will have to live with because of our “disposable habits.” We all understand the harmful effects that plastic bags have on our environment and are committed to take action.’s goal is to do 3 things:

    -change behavior of adults (use reusable bags for all shopping trips)
    We came up with a FREE car window static cling to remind them to grab their bags when they leave their car.

    – educate young people about the harmful effects of plastic bags to our oceans and environment
    We have classroom kits for teachers and great free resource for parents, families, teachers and schools.

    – create a community change blog
    We have a one stop resource where individuals, municipalities and corporations can find out what other areas of the country are doing either with environmental initiatives or legislatively.

    100% of our profits go toward distributing static clings and providing classroom kits to schools.

    In just seven short months, our community has grown to over 50,000 members and we have distributed FREE static clings to all our individual supporters. We are really seeing traction with city-wide/corporate/school initiatives. And we are most proud about being able to distribute dozens of classroom kits along with the many, many downloads of our parent and family materials.

    We also have over 8,600 very active fans on Facebook (

    We are really excited because that equates to keeping over 35 million bags out of the ecosystem and we have only just begun! It feels so great to make an impact over such a simple act of conservation. It is something that everyone can do and yet together, we can make a huge difference.

    Perhaps you can take a look at our site – if you are interested, we would love if you would help spread the word out to your network.

    Please feel free to contact me at your convenience at If you have interest, we can trade guest blogs or website links with you.

    Thank you for your consideration…

    Kimbirly Orr
    Media Consultant

    Gayle Crowell

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