28 jun 2019
A former merchant seafarer is building a world-first boat that will be powered by plastic. The French Plastic Odyssey project, led by Simon Bernard, will see the 25-meter catamaran generate her own fuel on board via the pyrolysis of plastic waste that cannot be recycled.
Pyrolysis can be used to decompose plastic into liquid fuels by heating it to over 400°C without oxygen. It is one of the technologies that Bernard hopes will be used to address the growing issue of plastic waste. He aims to promote recycling and make low-tech technologies accessible around the world by taking the boat on a three-year development and promotional voyage to South America, Africa and Asia, starting in 2020.
The aft of the vessel will be a recycling workshop containing an onboard pyrolysis unit capable of producing up to 40 liters of fuel per hour. The vessel will not collect plastic for fuel during the voyage, as only around one percent of plastic waste in the ocean floats on or near the surface. Instead, plastic will be collected during port stops. The fore part of the vessel will be dedicated to waste reduction and will showcase recycling technologies and alternatives to disposable packaging.
The crew of 12 to 20 will include professional sailors, system engineers, filmmakers, scientists and the media. The goal is to inspire local professional networks to launch plastic recovery centers and to generate ideas for micro-entrepreneurship in local communities. The project will develop low-tech and open-source sorting, recycling and pyrolysis technologies based on existing technologies that have already proven successful on land. On board, they will be adapted to be mobile, budget-friendly, easy to produce and to repair. Blueprints will be available online for free.