David de Rothschild to sail in a boat of plastic bottles

British adventurer will sail across the Pacific in a 60-foot catamaran made of 12,000 plastic bottles and other recycled materials.

Marco Visscher | May 2009 issue

According to David de Rothschild, the plastic bottle is the icon of the modern lifestyle. “It costs an awful lot of energy to produce and transport; we enjoy its existence for a couple of minutes; and after we’ve used it, we throw it away and don’t bother where it goes.” A lot of those bottles end up in the ocean, where they wreak all kinds of environmental havoc. So de Rothschild is taking a bunch of bottles to the ocean, too: not to dump them, but to make a point. He’s building a 60-foot catamaran made from some 12,000 plastic bottles and other recycled plastic waste products, and he intends to sail the vessel around the world to demonstrate what recycling can do.
The 30-year-old British adventurer and polar explorer is still working on the Plastiki at a pier on San Francisco’s waterfront. His boat is named after the Kon-Tiki raft that crossed the Pacific in 1947. The craft’s skeleton and cabin are built of self-reinforcing polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a strong woven fabric made from used plastic. With a small crew of sailors and scientists, the Plastiki will embark this summer for Sydney, with de Rothschild and his team stopping along the way at ecologically fragile locations to clean up beaches and talk at schools. “The only worry I have is that I already get seasick in a bathtub,” de Rothschild says. “But if you’re passionate about something, I believe you just need to speak up. When we set sail, we’ll inspire new dreams to take recycling a step further.”

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