back to article Billionaire floats eco dream on sailing soda bottles

By now, David de Rothschild is used to being cast as the eccentric visionary whose well-meaning crusade to save the world's oceans is overshadowed by a lack of execution - or at least naiveté. After all, the billionaire eco-adventurer's three-year quest to sail across the Pacific in a boat made completely of recycled materials …


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  1. Anton Ivanov

    Nice way to sink some money

    If these are real soda bottles the boat will sink in about 6 months. They are now made from degradeable plastic which becomes brittle when irradiated by UV lite from the sun. Even if these are "ole good not ecofriendly" bottles, these still become brittle in the sun due to plastifier leakage. So unless these are "really old glass bottles" this thing is pretty much doomed.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    SIX PAGES!!!

    This is the bloody internet not a leaflet! I CAN SCROLL!!!!

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge


      .. but I guess that would mean 5 missed opportunities for new ads..


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      That is all.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's the bandwidth

      Not everyone has fast broadband. Breaking up picture stories into several pages improves load time.

      It also helps us manage our bandwidth and server capacity, in the upshot that a picture story goes viral... like this one, for example -

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Genuinely confused by this

        How does loading exactly the same content, but split over several pages (each of which includes new ads) allow it to load more quickly?

        And if the content was all on one page, wouldn't people on a slow connection be able to read the plain text article while they wait for the (quite dull in this case) images to load? And even leave the page before the images had loaded if they had finished the article, saving their data allowance/bandwidth and yours?

        I'm probably missing something obvious, wouldn't be the first time...

  3. Ken 16 Silver badge

    soda bottles?

    Those are the big wire wrapped ones with the lever on the end, aren't they?

    (mine's the one with the naggin of whiskey in the pocket)

  4. James Hughes 1

    Good for him

    The end result may not work very well, but there do appear to be some interesting recycling discoveries being made, and that is what he appears to be looking for in the long run.

    Someone with money spending on something worthwhile! Well done!

  5. Oninoshiko

    the properties of lead...

    "One - Plastiki expedition coordinator Matthew Grey doesn't recall which - was almost as dense as lead, and yet it also bent like chewing gum."

    "bending like chewing gum" would also make it like lead... well not QUITE that easily, but led is known to bend with ease.

  6. robhob


    This reminds me of the Darwin beer can regatta.

    Every year this is held at Darwin, Australia. ------ On the beach there is a social event where many 'vessels' are used (some even float), these boats are made by fixing together lots and lots of empty beer cans.

    There is no shortage of them as many are emptied every day in Darwin's climate. There are races on the sands with people carrying their constructions.

    A very good time is had by all. Quite a number of extra empties are produced during the Regatta as you would expect.


    1. Mr Ian

      More info

      Not only is the event great fun, but the lead up to it is as well. I regularly hear of teams leaving their can collection and craft building to the last minute, so they all start plowing into the beer to try and collect as many empties in the final week as possible. They then quickly strap the cans together and hope it floats. Poor bastards would be hungover by the time they have to set sail!

  7. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Well done

    I like these sorts of projects. I doesn't matter what specific bee-in-bonnet drives it, this sort of project drives new thinking, new research. That's why I like the Alinghi effort as well (you need to see that in real life before you realise just how shockingly large it is)..

  8. Matt 58

    Oh really

    I would not want to recycle that boat

    Heat bonded composite (foam and sheet) would have to be de bonded and or seperated out, most extruders don't like foamed stuff being fed into them.

    Not to mention the dirt ingress and uv / salt water damage done to the polymer structure and all the fittings that always get attached to boats for the rigging and all that.

    Then internally there would be dirt and damage and chemical attack from oils and fuels needed on boats for cooking and fuel.

    PET is a bitch to recycle, even virgin material has to be very dry to prevent degradation in the manufacturing process. most PET is recycled into fibres (with lots of colour) for clothes since its no use for bottles anymore.

    Most plastics people take the view they either you recycle plastics into something like compost heap bins or other things that can be black (white or transparent recycled things... ha ha ha) or don't require special properties (street furnature) or just hidden like sewage pipe or access points. Old PVC windows can be reused as the bulk of new window frames but only the core, a outer skin of new white PVC must be used as people don't like grey window frames. (assuming of course thet the UV stabiliser used in the old frame was not toxic)

    Final option, burn it, recover the energy. seen by many as better than wasting energy trying to recycle something into something else that is really low value.

    Only 4 % of the oil produced worldwide is turned into plastic, the rest is burnt in some way or another, so use it as plastic products first, recycle it if its feasable, then burn it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why don't steel or aluminium qualify as recycled materials?

    If the aim is to "Sail across the Pacific in a boat made completely of recycled materials" why can't steel or aluminium be used? All stainless steel made in the UK is recycled from the arc furnace production route.

    And steel and aluminium can be melted down and recycled over and over again, unlike thermoplastics.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Easy one.

      'cos that wouldn't prompt a six page analysis in El Reg and endless "lifestyle" articles in the Sunday Supplements.

      It's all about the PR. While the metals may be the better option for recycling, they just don't have the headline-friendly greenwash angle that pop bottles offer.

      I wonder if those used are empty kool-aid bottles retrieved from the rubbish bins of the world's press?

  10. AndyS
    Thumb Up

    Great idea

    This is a fantastic project. Sure, if we're intent on comparing it to state of the art racing catamarans it's a pretty lame boat, but as the article quotes again and again, it's about the publicity. If and when they succeed (they don't seem about to give up!) it will achieve exactly that.

    I work in mechanical engineering research and had never heard of this srPET material. Raising awareness and developing new uses for materials seems to me far more productive than building yet another yacht out of the conventional materials.

  11. DI_Wyman

    4 x 4?

    LOL, or at least strong enough to be run over by a Land Rover sport utility vehicle.

    Just how many sea worthy Land Rovers are there?

  12. Steve X


    What's this, now we can make comments on the comments? What next, commentards commenting on the comment comments?

    I do hope this isn't just a ploy to get our beloved moderatrix off the hook for the CoTW fiasco, or worse yet, to get her laid off completely (is that what I meant?).

    Comment²ards unite. Save our Sarah!

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      comments on the comments on the comments...

      ... I can see No good end to this. :D

      Mine's the mobius-shaped one with the klein bottle stenciled on the face of it.

  13. disgruntled yank

    some day, some visionary will invent metal or wood

    As AC 11:35 points out, there are such materials as steel or aluminum that are quite straightforward to recycle. Hell, with a wooden boat you can just let it rot, or feed the marine worms.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Am I the only one...

    Who read the headline as;

    "Billionaire floats ego dream on sailing soda bottles"

    Paris, because she's biological and knows how to degrade herself.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spruce Goose?

    Spruce Goose, anyone?

  16. Bruce 9

    The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Swindle

    The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a Swindle trying to con as many people as the CRU.

    Its a few specks of platic per cubic meter. It takes hours of trolling to pick up a 1/4 cup of plastic bits. It is totally invisible on google Earth.

    Its an effing fabrication!

  17. techmind

    Bottles... pressurised... CO2

    "12,500 soda bottles ... pressurized by dropping 12 grams of dry ice into each one and then sealing it. After the carbon dioxide reverts by to a gaseous state, the ultra-light container is virtually unbreakable." (page 2 of article)

    Maybe, but won't the CO2 gradually escape over many months? After all, even an unopened bottle of fizzy pop seems to have lost quite a bit of its fizz by its Best Before date.

  18. James O'Brien
    Paris Hilton

    Good luck

    " de Rothschild said the real value of the partnership is the opportunity to nudge the technology behemoth in a more environmentally responsible direction."

    Seeing as HP is well known and documented for sending skids of bozes and shrinkwrap and bubblewrap and foam and anti-static bags for a piece of A4 with the license on it, good luck getting that to change. I've just taken the stance not to buy from them. Hell by doing that I figure I've saved around a ton of recyclable waste being generated.

  19. Bob Clements

    I guess that's modernisation . . .

    . . . no so much a ship in a bottle,

    more a bottle . . . .

  20. Neil Stansbury
    Thumb Up

    He should be nothing but applauded

    Anyone whose goal is to reduce if not prevent this situation should be encouraged in any way possible:

  21. Georgees

    What's the point?

    "Recyclable yacht" as per the image description.

    What's the point.

    I doubt yachts are the reason out landfills are getting full...

  22. Tim Schomer

    Is it only me...

    ...that needs a new keyboard now after reading that HP is one of their sponsors...

  23. LuMan
    Thumb Up

    I'd be more impressed if...

    ...all those bottles had miniature boats in them (like the ones you get on holiday).

    In fact, each bottle could have a mini Plastiki in it - each one possessing even smaller bottles with still smaller Plastikis in them... and so on...etc..

  24. Steven Jones

    Plenty of more suitable recycled materials...

    "After all, the billionaire eco-adventurer's three-year quest to sail across the Pacific in a boat made completely of recycled materials has suffered its share of setbacks. For one thing, the vessel is no longer being made solely of recycled plastics."

    So who needs plastic bottles? We've been recycling steel, aluminium, other metals, glass and wood for rather a long time. It would be possible to build quite a serviceable boat without resorting to old bottled of Tizer. I suppose the sails might be a bit more of an issue, but I think my mum has some old curtains that could be donbted to the cause.

  25. James 55

    Random Note:

    Plastiki is Fijian for Plastic.

  26. Homard

    This Can Be Made To Work

    This thing can be made to work with some sound Engineering judgement. Sandwich layer composite construction is used all the time in small boats, and the result is a light and extremely tough hull. Even the bottles can be used to provide stiffness so a smooth transparent skin could be used as the hull surface.

    I say good on these guys for doing this. I'm no greenie but we need to look at things like this so we make more intelligent use of what we have. we will also do less damage to an environment that we know very little all about despite many years of science. That same environment provides the air we breathe and the food we eat - for free.

    I say again that this project can succeed, but even if it doesn't we have here some vital research investigating what we can/can't usefully do with recycled materials. That research will always be useful.

    We in the west have our true cost of existence hidden by the garbage collection every Tuesday that convenienty removes our waste. Now look at the slums in India where there is no such luxury.

    This guy is putting *HIS* money into this project to highlight an issue, and hopefully find some solutions along the way. I say GO, and also thank you to David de Rothschild for doing this.

  27. Busted

    Is this the same Rothchild

    That when questioned about his belief in man made global warming using the shrinking ice caps as proof and was pointed to the fact that the Ice caps on Mars were also shrinking stated.

    "that's because Mars is closer to the Sun...."

    As others have pointed out a soda bottle boat is just as delusional guess it must be the inbreeding.

  28. Jonathan

    good to see

    "As is now characteristic for the project, only a crude prototype of the boat has been tested, so no one knows for sure.... From its outset, the project has had a seat-of-the-pants quality that's led to its share of dead-ends and delays."

    the same could probably have been said of the Wright brothers.

  29. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    @Matt 58

    " would not want to recycle that boat

    Heat bonded composite (foam and sheet) would have to be de bonded and or seperated out, most extruders don't like foamed stuff being fed into them."

    It was my impression that the big problem with plastic recyclingis seprating out the different plastics in complex parts or reinforced composite materials.

    So a composite whose matrix *and* reinforcement are chemically the same polymer (with IIRC different heat treatments) does not need seperation.

    I'd take a wild stab and say that some kind of block press would collapse the bubles into a compact mass before further processing. Failing that putting it into a vacuum tank cooker and melting it down to a raw liquid should work. Workingt he bugs out of the recycling process is I presuem part of what this projects all about.

  30. Schultz


    Some thing are easily recycled (aluminum, glass), others are not (PET). It's beyond me, why people want to recycle stuff that could be easily burned for energy (instead of oil) and replaced with new, high-quality plastics (from oil).

    The operating principle seems to be: mind off, conscience on.

  31. John White

    Suitable recyclable materials

    Could I suggest a material which is biosynthesised; can be harvested; by selection of suitable material sub-types can make ship; masts; ropes etc. Once ship life is over, construction materials can be burnt for power (cf previous entry re plastic recycling) or used in new ships/buildings. If boat sinks, materials are naturally recycled by ocean flora and fauna.

    Skill persons in it's very widely available

    The material is..... wood (well plant materials..)!

  32. Greenalien

    Won't go to windward...

    ...nuff said.

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