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David de Rothschild is an adventurer, environmentalist and the founder of a group that primarily uses exploration and storytelling as a way to give nature a voice. David’s passion and commitment to action has seen him ski, dogsled and kite to both the North and South poles as well as visiting some of the world’s most remote and fragile regions in order to bring wide-spread media attention and, moreover, solutions to urgent global environmental issues.

From March to July 2010, David and a crew of five undertook the latest expedition, the Plastiki, sailing across the Pacific Ocean on a catamaran made buoyant by 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles to beat waste. ( David is recognized as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Clean up the World Ambassador, UNEP Climate Hero and a Young Global Leader respectively.

”Here it was this amazingly disgusting manifestation of modern consumerism swirling across our oceans” David de Rothschild

”Maybe it isn’t plastic that we should blame, but more our inability to understand and use it and more importantly how we dispose of it” David de Rothschild

”I created a vessel to show waste as a resource” David de Rothschild

The Plastiki

The Plastiki is an innovative catamaran which included using 12,500 post-consumer plastic bottles for buoyancy. Their mission is to witness some of the most devastating waste accumulation on our planet, including the Pacific Garbage Patch.

David de Rothschild conceived the idea of the Plastiki after reading a report Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas by UNEP which indicated that the world’s oceans were in serious threat from pollution, in particular plastic waste. On 20 March 2010 the sailing vessel set off from San Francisco, California to cross the Pacific Ocean with a crew of six: British skipper Jo Royle, co-skipper David Thompson, expedition diver Olav Heyerdahl, filmmakers Max Jourdan and Vern Moen, and expedition leader David de Rothschild. Plastiki arrived in Sydney Harbour on 26 July 2010.

During the voyage, the Plastiki explored a number of environmental hotspots such as, soon to be flooded island nations, damaged coral reefs and the challenges faced by our acidifying oceans and marine debris, in particular plastic pollution, in the oceans. The expedition aimed to raise awareness of these issues and showcase how waste can be used as a valuable resource through the use of the everyday, highly consumed plastic bottle.

The Plastiki began her adventure nearly four years ago after taking inspiration from a report issued by UNEP called ‘Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas’ and Thor Heyerdahl’s epic 1947 expedition, The Kon-Tiki. True to Adventure Ecology’s values, a compelling and pioneering expedition was needed that would not only inform, but would also captivate, activate and educate the world that waste is fundamentally inefficient design.

With more efficient design and a smarter understanding of how we use materials, principally plastic, waste can be transformed into a valuable resource, in turn helping to lessen our plastic fingerprints on the world’s oceans.

The Plastiki: vital statistics

Length: 60 feet
Beam: 23 feet
Weight: 12 tons
Mast Heights: 40/60 feet
No. of plastic bottles: 12,500 approx.
Average speed: 5 knots
Distance travelled: 7,500 miles

To undertake the Plastiki expedition Adventure Ecology was not only influenced by the principles of ‘cradle-to-cradle’ design and biomimicry but brought together a multi-faceted team from the fields of sustainable design, boat building, architecture and material science in order to foster a collection of new ideas and cutting edge technologies that allow the Plastiki to be a truly unique, one-of-a-kind expedition vessel.

During the first phase, a team of experts including Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity, helped to answer the question “could a fully recyclable performing vessel be engineered almost entirely out of reclaimed plastic bottles, cross the Pacific whilst demonstrating real world solutions?”

Watch Cameron Sinclair discuss ways to improve our response to natural disasters Watch Cameron Sinclair discussing how we can improve our response to natural disasters at a 21st Century Challenges event in May 2010

The Plastiki was part inspired by the famous Kon-Tiki voyage – the expedition, led by Thor Heyerdahl, sought to prove that Polynesian settlement by South American explorers was possible. He did this by assembling a raft made from carved out balsa husks, and then floating west from Peru utilizing the trade winds.

The sails, some of the first in the world to be made from recycled PET, were installed atop the Plastiki. The masts are made from aluminium irrigation piping and consist of 98% post consumer billet. A unique recyclable plastic material made from srPET makes up her super structure. The secondary bonding is reinforced using a newly developed organic glue made from cashew nuts and sugar cane

Fitting the bottles together in the right way was key to producing a solid structure. Inspiration was largely taken from the formation of a pomegranate which packs together many soft seeds to create a hard outer structure.