It feels like the world has been full of nothing but bad news lately, but, as often happens around the Mississippi, just wait a bit and something will come along to lift your spirits. That was the case this week, when a crew of six explorers/activists floated into Alton on some trash from New York.
That trash has been repurposed into a raft built from hundreds of discarded plastic bottles held together by wood, most of which was salvaged from old docks. The crew, called Recycled Mississippi, is on a mission to remind us to treat our rivers better—which is a great cause but kinda sad that we need to be reminded to do it—as well as to nudge us to reduce the amount of crap we throw away.
The boat, a catamaran, took over two months to build. The twin hulls are filled with hundreds of plastic bottles to provide buoyancy. Prepping the bottles for repurposing was a labor-intensive act. Each bottle had to be cleaned and checked for leaks and was then filled with about a tablespoon of dry ice and sealed. As the dry ice turned to gas, it expanded, filling the bottle and turning it rock hard.
The hulls are connected with an open deck outfitted with a mast and sail, although that sail probably won’t get a lot of use on the river. The skipper controls the outboard motor from a command podium that is decorated with a map of the Mississippi where they mark their progress on the trip.
They are taking their message to the Mississippi Valley and beyond by traveling the river from St. Paul to the Gulf of Mexico, a journey of some 2,000 miles. Because floating on a boat made of trash isn’t difficult enough, they are trying to do the entire journey without creating any new waste themselves. These are folks who are familiar with taking on big challenges, though.
They come from around the world and each brings a lot of hands-on experience advocating for better human-environment relations, whether by building kayaks from plastic bottles or founding an organization to advocate for sustainable waste management or trekking across the Sahara or running ultramarathons or participating in cleanups in Serbia. They don’t mess around.
They are inspiring, for the effort they put into this cause, for their willingness to challenge themselves, and for their drive to make the world a better place.
You can follow their trip here and feel a little better about the world while you do.
©Dean Klinkenberg, 2016