The Plastiki Expedition


David de Rothschild
29 July, 2010

Why you should listen

Watch the lecture recording by ABC TV Big Ideas below or watch it on the ABC TV Big Ideas site

Adventure Ecology founder and environmentalist David de Rothschild conceived the idea of the Plastiki after reading a report Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which indicated that the world’s oceans were in serious threat from pollution, in particular plastic waste. He invited a team of experts to help 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?”

The Plastiki is part-inspired by the famous 1947 Kon-Tiki voyage – the expedition, led by Thor Heyerdahl, that sought to prove that Polynesian settlement by South American explorers was possible. A multi-disciplinary team from the fields of marine science, sustainable design, boat building, architecture and material science have taken the Kon-Tiki inspiration one step further and designed a boat that fits all the principles of 'cradle-to-cradle’ design, and biomimicry, a method that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies.


Underwater view of Plastiki hull

The Plastiki is a unique 18.3-metre catamaran made from approximately 12,500 reclaimed plastic soft drink bottles that have been fixed into the pontoons. These provide the boat with 68 per cent of her buoyancy. The sails are some of the first to be made from recycled PET. The masts are made from aluminum irrigation piping and consist of 98 per cent post consumer billet. The crew use an ‘off-the-grid’ vessel relying primarily on renewable energy systems, grow their own leafy vegetables in a vertical garden, harvest rainwater, and minimise waste.

In his event for the University of Sydney David de Rothschild explained the technology used on board and revealed what he and crew learnt on their four-month journey from San Francisco. David was in conversation with inventor, educator and adjudicator Sally Dominguez

Visit the Plastiki Expedition website to review the journey and find out more about the technology used -

David De Rothschild

David de Rothschild is a UK-based environmentalist and the author of The Global Warming Survival Handbook, The Boy, The Girl and the Tree and the editor of Dorling Kindersley’s Earth Matters. He is the host of the Sundance Channel’s Eco-Trip: The Real Cost of Living and has been named as a National Geographic Society “Emerging Explorer” and a UNEP “Climate Hero.” In 2006, he spent more than 100 days crossing the Arctic and became the youngest British person to reach both poles.

Sally Dominguez graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Sydney, and has designed and built over 18 passive solar houses before designing her award-winning Nest highchair in 2003. Her accomplishments now include five major international product design awards, and five years of professional judging, including ABC TV’s The New Inventors, The Australian Design Awards and the San Francisco-based Spark Awards. Her Rainwater HOG tank product was named one of the USA’s Top 10 Green Building Products in 2008.

Introduction by Professor Jill Trewhella, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Sydney