Well, the 60-foot catamaran made almost entirely out of recycled plastic isn't quite built yet. But it does have a lot of renewable, recycled and "green IT" pieces going into it.
"When you think about waste, it's fundamentally a design flaw," de Rothschild said Friday at San Francisco's Pier 45, at an event showing off the Plastiki's "Mission Control" center-slash-tourist attraction.
The Plastiki is the latest project for the banking fortune heir and star of the "Eco-Trip" TV program. De Rothschild intends to sail across the Pacific to document the mass of plastic garbage circulating in the ocean, which is killing the animals that live in it and leaching toxins into the seafood we eat.
Rothschild would like to see plastic like that recycled to make boats, and lots of other things. His argument is that plastic is a way of life, so we should stop making disposable items from it and recycle the rest.
On hand Friday were samples of the "self-reinforcing PET" that will make up the structural frame of the Plastiki. It's made from a type of plastic found in food and beverage containers, as well as fiberglass, a common boat-building material.
But self-reinforcing PET weighs half as much as fiberglass at about two-thirds the strength, de Rothschild said. It also lacks the contaminants that force boat makers working with fiberglass to wear facemasks. (A less technology-intensive form of recycling – lots of air-filled plastic bottles, strapped together and packed in between the structural bulkheads – will keep the boat afloat.)
De Rothschild has also started something he calls The Smart Collective to look into new ways to recycle. The branch of de Rothschild's Adventure Ecology organization plans to take pitches for investment-worthy ideas, though a spokesperson for Adventure Ecology said details haven't been settled yet.
Also on hand were the notebooks, smart phones and hard drives from HP – a Plastiki sponsor – that will be used to navigate, document and broadcast its journey.
HP wanted to stress its green credentials as well. It has been making a push into recycling, along with its competitors, and aims to recycle two billion pounds of material in the next few years, said Satjiv Chahil, senior vice president of marketing for HP's Personal Systems Group.
HP also has come out with the first of its products to meet the new Energy Star requirements that call for computers to meet energy ratings across the spectrum of their operating states, from sleep to active (see Intel Shows Off Power-Saving IT).
To power its devices, the Plastiki will use solar and wind power systems custom-built for the ship, as well as two bicycle-mounted generators.
It also carries a "hydro generator," or a dragging propeller that spins as the ship moves forward to generate electricity. The device, made by Electric Marine Propulsion, also can be powered to drive the boat forward when the wind dies – a potential replacement for diesel engines now found on most sailboats, said Jo Royle, the Plastiki's skipper.
Just when the Plastiki will set sail hasn't been set yet, de Rothschild said, though it could be as early as this summer.
But when it does, it will be documented in close detail, down to the heart monitors crewmembers will wear on their wrists to capture their heart rates as they face sharks in the water or an oncoming storm front. There's got to be something to relieve the boredom of a trans-Pacific voyage.
Image via Plastiki.