6th November 2017

Recycled plastic boat makes waves

The world’s first boat constructed using 99 per cent recycled plastic waste has set sail in London. Named Poly-Mer, the vessel was built to raise awareness of the increasing amount of plastic pollution in Britain’s waterways.

The 12-seater punt (a type of boat designed more than a thousand years ago) left the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre and will be used to clear plastic litter from the docks around Canary Wharf.

Poly-Mer was built by Hubbub – a sustainability charity – using single-use recycled plastic known as ‘Plaswood’. The material is made from 100 percent recycled plastic and combines plastic and wood.

The boat was built for Hubbub by Mark Edwards MBE, a Richmond-based boat builder who previously built the Queen’s barge, ‘Gloriana’.

Plastic wood can not be effectively glued so mechanical fastenings had to be used – the “clenched copper nail” was selected. It was invented two thousand years ago and used by the Vikings who ventured so far afield in their “clinker” (a corruption of clench nailed) longships.

Recyclable material collected will be used to build more boats, creating a litter-busting fleet that can be deployed across the UK.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey MP boarded the boat for its maiden voyage, along with local school children from Canary Wharf College. She said: “This is an excellent and creative solution that demonstrates the damaging effect littering and plastics can have on our environment and wildlife.

“We are already taking significant steps to tackle this important issue – by planning to introduce one of the world’s toughest bans on plastic microbeads and taking nine billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p carrier bag charge.

“Furthermore, we have now launched a call for evidence to help understand how deposit reward and return schemes for plastic bottles and other drinks containers could work in England.”

Trewin Restorick, Chief Executive and Co-founder of Hubbub, said: “The problem of plastic pollution of the oceans and the terrible impact this can have on wildlife is now widely understood thanks to campaigns such as Sky Ocean Rescue. What people perhaps don’t realise is that 80 per cent of ocean plastic comes from land and travels from our hand to storm drain, river or seas.

“We built the ‘Poly-Mer’ to turn part of the problem into a solution and hope it will raise awareness that everyone can play their part to tackle plastic litter closer to home before it travels out to the ocean. We’d love to hear from people in other areas of the UK who are interested in getting involved with plastic fishing as we expand the fleet.”

Mark Edwards, boat builder said: “As a traditional boat builder I have had some interesting phone calls over the years enquiring about Royal barges, wooden submarines and mediaeval invasion boats but the recent enquiry from Hubbub for a recycled plastic workpunt was, I soon realised, technically one of the most demanding projects I have been asked to undertake. It was a challenge but such a worthwhile project that experimentation began immediately.

The boat will be accessible to members of the public and businesses interested in taking part in ‘plastic fishing’ trips. For more information contact plasticfishing@hubbub.org.uk