Thursday, 3 September 2009

Hit the bottle

In the past we’ve talked about upcycling plastic bottles into building blocks for houses, and we’ve explored how PET can be recycled into materials useful in clothing and footwear manufacture. 

Today I was crossing the Hungerford Foot Bridge and admired birds cruising along on the surface of the Thames, but they were sharing the waterways with a fair bit of rubbish. Which made me think of plastic bottles and how perfectly buoyant they are, which made me think of a weird and wonderful upcycling project I read about recently. 

The Plastiki is a 60-foot boat is modelled on a traditional Polynesian vessel and has a crew of six people. It’s made out of all upcycled and recycled materials, including 12,000 reclaimed 2-litre plastic bottles tied to a structure made out of Self Reinforcing Polyethylene Terephthalate (SRPET). Right now the Plastiki is in a three-month adventure as it crosses the Pacific from San Francisco to Sydney, but at the end of its life, the boat’s components will be upcycled again. Into what? That’s yet to be decided.

This is from The Plastiki’s website, and explains what the expedition is hoping to achieve:

"90 percent ocean debris is plastic - so it’s fitting that the expedition focuses on it and the plastic bottle epitomises the absurdity of our throwaway society. Some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year; in the US alone nearly $11 billion is spent on over 8 billion gallons of bottled water. In bottle production alone, more than 70 million bottles of water consumed each day in the U.S. and 1.5 million barrels of oil is used over the course of one year, resulting in about 22 billion empty plastic bottles being trashed. It's something that, when you dig a little deeper into it, you realise that the facts just don't add up, for example, it takes between three to five litres of water to make a one litre bottle of water and, then you need to include the energy needed for transportation, just to produce something that ultimately ends up in the ground. When you think that plastic bottles are 100 percent recyclable and yet only 20 percent are actually recycled, there is a lot of work to be done."

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