Boat Made of Trash Sails into St. Louis

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Riding in style on the Mississippi. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GARY BENCHEGHIB.
  • Photo courtesy of Gary Bencheghib.
  • Riding in style on the Mississippi.
There's a boat full of trash floating down the Mississippi river. 

Well, it's actually a boat made of trash, specifically hundreds of plastic bottles cobbled together to form a 21-foot catamaran. The watercraft, "ioco," is helmed by a six-man team of environmentalists hailing from all over the world. The expedition calls itself Recycled Mississippi, and on Tuesday the floating heap of bottles docked in Alton, Illinois, so the team could restock on supplies and enjoy some sight-seeing in St. Louis. 

"St. Louis marks the halfway point for us," says filmmaker and expedition member Gary Bencheghib, who is producing a documentary based on the journey. The team embarked from Minneapolis, Minnesota, on June 19, with the goal of traversing 1,800 miles of river to reach the Gulf of Mexico by mid-August. 

"Typically we camp out on sand banks on the river," Bencheghib says. "We've had good weather so far, only big two storms." 

So why would anyone set foot on a boat built from hundreds of plastic bottles lashed together with chicken wire? It comes down to pollution and plastic. The group seeks to raise awareness about river pollution, recycling and the need to eliminate single-use plastic containers. 

Designed by two Swiss engineers, the boat took months to build and test before it was ready for its long journey south. 

Granted, the boat is more than just recycled milk jugs and soda bottles. The repurposed trash provides buoyancy for a wooden deck and an outboard motor, and solar panels generate the juice to power the boat's batteries. If there's wind, the crew can even hoist a sail. 

"We’re trying to be zero-waste," says Bencheghib. "A lot of the communities we’ve seen along the way, they have acknowledged there’s not a lot of recycling. We want people to think about how plastic has a second life."

Want to cheer on this plucky group of nautical-minded environmentalists? You can follow the expedition's progress here


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