Plastiki's San Fran to Sydney voyage raises awareness about plastic waste

Plastiki hails a new mono-polymer created by 100 per cent PET plastic

  • The Plastiki is a handmade 20m catamaran constructed entirely out of reclaimed plastic PET bottles. It took two years to design and build and the crew sailed out of San Francisco on 20 March, arriving in Sydney on 26 July.

    The Plastiki's mission is to promote a better understanding of ecological issues, primarily plastic waste management and renewable energy. The Plastiki itself is constructed out of a mono-polymer material that has been created out of melted plastic PET bottles. The material started off being fabric-like and through heating and pressure processes was eventually made into a fibre comparable to fibreglass but much tougher. Unlike fibreglass, the plastic bottle-based material won't break under pressure, but will instead expand.

  • The Platiki is a brainchild of environmentalist David de Rothschild, who says the goal was to "demonstrate that a mass-consumption item such as a plastic bottle, can be transformed into an effective and useful resource". It is hoped that the mono-polymer, which is 100 per cent PET plastic, will be usable in other fields and because it is 100 per cent PET plastic, it can be melted and reused again and again. Some potential uses for the mono-polymer include skateboards, surfboards and solar panels.

  • This is the control centre aboard the Plastiki. HP and Inmarsat are the major technology partners of the Plastiki, HP supplying all the onboard computers and Inmarsat supplying the communications. The voyage would not have been possible without technology, and also without renewable energy.

  • No modifications were made to the computers onboard the Plastiki (except for the screen savers) -- they are pretty much the same types that you can buy off the shelves -- but the crew implemented optimal power management plans that those of us near a power outlet so often forget about and neglect. The units on board the boat included: [[artnid:298826|HP Elitebook 2530p|Review: HP Elitebook 2530p ]], [[artnid:322994|HP ProBook 5310m|Review: HP ProBook 5310m notebook]], [[artnid:342109|HP Mini 5102|Review: HP Mini 5102 netbook]], [[artnid:323498|HP Mini 311|Review: HP Mini 311 netbook]]. These are all relatively low-power machines -- you won't find any high-end graphics and CPUs among them.

  • Inmarsat supplied its FleetBroadband solution to the Plastiki, which allowed the crew to keep in touch with Plastiki mission control via voice and data services. FleetBroadband is a dedicated maritime broadband-based communications service and it can supply fax, SMS, and high-speed broadband connectivity. In addition to keeping in touch with mission control, the Plastiki crew were also able to Skype with family members, undertake media interviews and appear in video conferences with students in classrooms. Of course, emergency systems and up to date weather information was also one of the boons of the Inmarsat technology. When describing the FleetBroadband solution at the Plastiki event in Sydney's Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Dave de Rothschild amused the crowd by saying he'd rather use the Internet on the boat rather than the slow connection in the building.

  • Wires snake their way from the power source to the control centre and the switch boxes.

  • The Plastiki is a completely self-reliant boat; the electronics are powered by a combination of solar panels, wind turbines and bicycle generators. There is a backup bio diesel engine for emergencies.

  • One of the switch boxes. It looks crude, but when you're going to be out at sea for months on end, you don't need to make things look pretty.

  • The little kitchen where the crew prepared their meals.

  • A Pelican case protects one of the boat's backup computers.

  • The rope-tied, mono-polymer plastic floor of the boat.

  • This is the vertical hydroponic setup.

  • Even the sail is re-used PET plastic, and the mast acts as an irrigation pipe. Water is desalinated via a vacuum evaporator.

  • A hatch in the floor of the sleeping quarters at the front of the boat.

  • Check out more information on the Plastiki at the official Web site: [[xref:|The Plastiki Expedition]].

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