The Plastiki, a sailing boat made out of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled waste products, has been sailing in the Pacific Ocean for more than 30 days.
Plastiki started its journey March 20 from San Francisco, with the intention to create public awareness about the effects of plastic usage on marine pollution and consequently sea life.
The Plastiki crew aims to explore a number of environmental hotspots, such as soon-to-be-flooded island nations, damaged coral reefs and the challenge faced by acidifying oceans and marine debris, in particular plastic pollution.
Plastiki’s journey is also scheduled to go through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a zone of trash one suspended on the water’s surface, twice the size of Texas, and stretching from the shores of California to the Sea of Japan.
The boat crew consists of six scientists, environmentalists and artists, led by the British adventurer David de Rothschild. The 60-foot boat is sailing with an average speed of five nautical miles per hour and the voyage is set end in Sydney in about three months. All the garbage that is dumped from the west coast of North America and the east coast of Asia combine and form the garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean due to the clockwise rotating Pacific currents.
It is reported that 90 percent of the garbage content is made of plastics, most originating from land sources. Both in the northern and southern hemispheres, these gyres creates a ‘plastic soup’ — as witnesses describe — and cause substantial marine debris.
Plastics, invented 101 years ago, are 100 percent human made materials. Shockingly, almost every plastic material that was made in human history still exists somewhere in the world.
Algalita Marine Research Foundation observed that degraded plastic pieces outweigh the surface planktons in the Central North Pacific Ocean by six to one. Charles Moore, captain and founder of the foundation, observed that most of the fish and other sea animals feeding in the Pacific Ocean, especially albatrosses, are found dead with innumerable plastic particles in their stomachs. The increasing ratio of plastics to plankton in the ecosystem makes the life of these animals even harder every year.
What the Plastiki Project is drawing attention to with the journey on a boat made out of plastic bottles is very important. I highly recommend watching “The Story of Bottled Water,“an animated film narrated by Annie Leonard, which lays out the complexity of the environmental danger of consuming water in plastic bottles.
The UNEP Tunza Magazine reports that for every litre of water poured into a bottle, another two litres are used in its manufacture. Statistics show that more than 90 percent of the plastic that is produced in our world is not recycled.
Given that our world is a closed system and there is no easy way of cleaning the oceans, we have to learn to create less waste and stop pollution. One very simple way to protect the environment from ourselves is to change our shopping habits and consume as few plastics as we can.
photo: Luca Babini