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Interview with David De Rothechild

Plastic is really useful as packaging as it is long lasting and lightweight but these very same qualities make it a deadly waste. Marine animals and birds can get caught in large plastic packaging or debris, often they will eat smaller bits thinking it to be food, but they cannot pass it so it stays in their stomachs. It might block the digestive tract so the animal dies or it might release some toxins which can also weaken the bird leaving it vulnerable to infection. Even when it does eventually break down into smaller pieces Jelly fish and other smaller creatures ingest it, and it gets into the food chain.

The Problem is not plastic in itself, the problem is that we use too much of it and definately waste far too much of it. In the UK alone a massive 90% of plastic does not get recycled. Green Gang chose the theme of 'plastic recycling' this year, and having been making sculptures to encourage people to recycle. Their Wheelbarrow at the RHS schools Competition was voted First prize so people do increasingly understand the problem. And it is people like David de Rothschild -the world’s leading eco-adventurer- who are working hard to make people aware of the problem.

David is currently sailing in the Plastiki on his way to Australia. The boat is made out of plastic bottles to highlight the problem of plastic litter, but he took time to answer questions from some of us about life aboard his boat and the problems of pollution. You can see the answers on the website www. plastiki.com .

We might not be able to get the attention of the press or public in the same way as David but every time we put a piece of plastic in the recycle bin we are helping. Every time we re-use a plastic bottle for a drink or avoid using a styrofoam cup we are helping. So why not help us too!

 

THESE ARE SOME OF THE QUESTIONS WE ASKED DAVID

What would be the best outcome to be achieved from the voyage?

"I think the best outcome for the Plastiki would be to ban single-use plastics that would be pretty amazing and obviously to arrive safely and get as many people as possible to realise that together we can beat waste"

Is the compostable loo/head unpleasant in hot weather?

"Yes it is! That is why some of us have decided to poop over the side."

FACT: Did you know that the nautical term 'head' for the loo comes from the old days when ships had sail so the front/bow or head was down wind and so a good spot for the loo.

After 34 days what do you miss most? What are you surprised you miss?

"After 34 days I think everyone is missing their bed, a nice shower and I’m definitely missing my dogs Smudge and Nester."

What is the food like on board? Do you take it in turn cooking?

"Right now, we’re cooking a lamb dish with some freshly cooked bread. On board I guess we like all the food we’ve got which is great. We’ve been very fortunate we’ve got lots of great farmers. I really like Marmite, Dave and myself are big Marmite heads, Marmite on toast. Jo likes her Lemon Curd, Max just likes food full stop and so does Vern, Vern likes his cookies!

We all cook once a week so we take it in turns."

Have you caught many fish? What would be your top tip for cooking fish? Have you had any flying fish on board?

"We’ve only caught three fish so far. Cooking on board we keep it simple.

This is some of the extra tuna that the crew have saved for later."

If you all voted to watch a film onboard would it be Waterworld, Jaws or Perfect Storm?

"If I had to watch one film on board I think it would be Jaws or maybe Perfect Storm."

Have you managed to collect any of the plastic from the gyre and look at it? What is the weirdest piece of plastic you have found?

"We do come across a lot of plastics but haven’t managed to collect any yet. We have seen some wee bits of plastics floating around; lots of bags, bottles and I guess we’ll see some more sadly when we hit the Southern Conversion Zone and some of the beaches as well.

Here is a picture of Olav with some plastic he found in the ocean."

What is going to happen to the boat at the end of the trip? Are you going to sail around the world and explore the other gyres? Are you going to call into Cardiff?

"Sadly we’re not going to call into Cardiff (although I do love Cardiff!)."

On a litterpick in our area we found over 95% was recyclable? Do you think the recession will make people less inclined to recycle plastics or less inclined to waste resources?

"We also think that people should try and recycle as much as possible even if there is a recession."

If you could build a magical extra room onboard what would it be: a forest, a luxury bathroom, a restaurant, a family visiting room etc?

"I definitely think a forest room sounds amazing! Some room for my dogs a bit of grass and greenery would be nice as well."

Have you seen any animals injured because of the rubbish?

"Haven’t seen any animals injured because of rubbish yet and thank God! I hope we don’t see any as there are already too many hurt animals out there."

Has Vern really being saying things like “Avast behind!” and “Ahah my hearties”?

"Yes he has! I think Vern must have always said “Avast and Ahaha my hearties”, he seems to love it."

Who is the biggest joker on board?

"I think we all have our sense of humour and we play pranks on each other and try to keep each other amused."

Some sailors in the Royal Navy say when they get off their ships they feel they need to sleep under a coffee table with a fluorescent light and the washing machine on so they can get to sleep, how would you recreate the experience of living aboard the Plastiki?

"I’m a bit nervous getting off the ship and getting land-sick. Not sure how I’m going to deal with that but I like suggestions for the fluorescent light and washing machine, sounds quite interesting! Maybe on land some hanging coconuts next to my head in a swinging hammock will help me relive the experience."

How have the sails been holding up?

"Yes the sails have been taking a bit of a battering. Fortunately, with the way the boat sails, the loose rigging of the boat takes a lot of pressure and that means Dave and Jo boat can fix things and keep the boat on course.

The boat is working well and everything else on board is working as expected nothing too major to report at the moment"

I think the questions you’ve asked are brilliant and thank you very much, kids, you are wicked! :0)

All of us at Millbank thank David the crew and all the support team for taking the time to help us and we wish them all the best for their journey. We also wish them well in their efforts to raise awareness of the problems of plastic waste.

 

There are lots of facts and details on the Plastiki website. Including that of the crew.

There are some articles about the voyage in the Daily Telegraph 7th March 2010 The Guardian 11th October 2009 CocoEco Magazine, Interview Magazine, National Geographical Kids apparently beat us to an interview in March 2009- worth reading for the pirate jokes.

You can also read a bit about the North Pacific Gyre from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography here

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