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The Plastiki floats in water on a test run The Plastiki is 60 feet long and made from thousands of plastic bottles. (Robert Galbraith / Reuters / Corbis)

Boat Made of Bottles

Environmentalists sail across the Pacific on a ship made from plastic bottles to highlight a pollution problem

October 21 , 2010
<p><strong><br />TOP:</strong> <i>Plastiki</i>'s path through the Pacific.</p><p><strong>MIDDLE:</strong> The plastic-bottle ship arrives in Sydney, Australia.</p><p><strong>BOTTOM:</strong> The boat was made from 12,500 plastic bottles.</p><p>(Jim McMahon / Daniel Munoz / Reuters) </p>


TOP:
Plastiki's path through the Pacific.

MIDDLE: The plastic-bottle ship arrives in Sydney, Australia.

BOTTOM: The boat was made from 12,500 plastic bottles.

(Jim McMahon / Daniel Munoz / Reuters)

On a mission to raise awareness about plastic pollution, a crew has crossed the Pacific Ocean in a boat made out of 12,500 recycled plastic bottles. That's about the number of these containers Americans throw away every 8.3 seconds.

The boat, named the Plastiki, sailed from San Francisco, California, to Sydney, Australia, traveling around the Eastern Garbage Patch—a floating mass of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean twice as big as Texas.

Scientists estimate that every year at least 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die when they get tangled in plastic pollution or try to eat it.

On their four-month, 15,500 kilometer (9,600 mile) journey, Plastiki's crew was surprised by the large amount of garbage and how little wildlife they saw.

"We only saw one pod of whales and dolphins, a couple of birds, and very few fish," says expedition leader David de Rothschild.

POWERING PLASTIKI

The boat was built from recycled polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic widely used in bottles. Unlike typical fiberglass boats, which cannot be recycled, Plastiki's hull, deck, and cabin are completely recyclable.

Wind turbines and solar panels generate electricity for the ship, as do two stationary bikes the crew used for exercise. Underwater turbines near the rudders also generate power.

The boat's cabin was designed to house a six-person crew. The roof captured rainwater for showers. The crew even had a machine that removed salt from seawater to make the water drinkable.

This article was adapted from one in Science World magazine.

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