David de Rothschild has been working on the development of a new recyclable plastic Seretex (self re-enforcing textile) and is currently in talks with the surfwear company Billabong to see if their surfboard fins can be made using the new material. The development of the plastic came about largely as a result of work to create a completely recyclable boat, the Plastiki, which David sailed from San Francisco to Sydney arriving in Sydney Harbour last week, "Innovation came through the most unexpected places and in this instance through trying to find a material that would be suitable for Plastiki's superstructure.” The boat was constructed from 12,500 plastic bottles, creates no pollution and produces all of its own energy, and a crew of 6 headed by David made the 9000 mile trip over 4 months. They sailed through the Great Pacific ‘Garbage Patches’ including an area nearly 5 times bigger than the UK between California and Hawaii where debris and pollution has collected over time to produce a ‘sea of waste’.
David who is an environmentalist, adventurer, and Head of Adventure Ecology decided to make the trip following the findings of a UN report which highlighted the increasingly dangerous effects of plastic waste on the environment. The report follows work by scientists in February who found a similar ‘sea of waste’ to the pacific garbage patches in the North Atlantic Ocean where plastic debris has also collected. The debris is very widely dispersed in small pieces which are consumed by marine organisms affecting ocean life and seabirds alike. It is yet to be determined exactly how much plastic is consumed year on year. A plastic like Seretex which is totally recyclable has the potential to be used not only for surfboards but also for everything from shipping containers to structural building parts and as David says, “I have no idea where it can go, but I'm positive it will change the value perception of what is now seen as waste, as a resource... a product ultimately should be able to tell a story and that story should have authenticity."
The Plastiki boat will now go on display at the Sydney Maritime Museum and lead architects who worked on the boat will continue to move forward in their aim to develop sustainable architecture and building materials. The organisation responsible for the boat’s concept design is called Exploration Architecture and the Director Michael Pawlyn is a fascinating keynote speaker who takes his inspiration from the natural world. Michael has been involved in numerous projects including his role as a leading architect for the Eden Project in Cornwall and he focuses on innovation, creativity and the future of sustainable design.