206: Kayaks from recycled plastic


Plastic kayaks are rotationally molded (‘rotomolded’) from a various grades and types of polyethylene resins ranging from soft to hard. Such kayaks are particularly resistant to impact and particularly slow to biodegrade.


Kayaks made of recycled materials.

In 1971, when Graham Mackereth turned his love of kayaking into a full-time job and started building kayaks in his father’s garage, most kayak touring was done in fibreglass ‘general purpose’ kayaks, which varied little from boats designed for slalom, and confusingly were frequently referred to as ‘canoes’.

Since 2012, all Mackereth’s Venture Kayaks have been made incorporating recycled plastic from their own scrap and from their second-hand kayak scrapage scheme, effectively closing the loop in their waste cycle.

In July 2015, Rob Thompson of Cornwall, England, had the honour of meeting Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, during The Ocean Plastics Awareness Day.

Here he signed a Statement of Intent, as a pledge to explore ways to develop a circular economy around marine plastic. Taking this responsibility seriously, Rob started to contemplate what he could create from marine plastic.

The eureka moment came after participating in a litter pick using kayaks, at the end with all participants stood around a great haul of bin bags to have their photo taken, he had an idea.

The knowledge that these bin bags ended up in landfill had always played upon Rob’s mind and it occurred to him that he could make the kayaks out the plastics gathered and then use these kayaks to gather more plastic.

It took a further two years of research and development for Rob to find a way of recycling the marine plastic into a material suitable for kayak manufacturing.

During this time he formed partnerships with Keep Britain Tidy, to assist in recycling beach plastic and Plastix to recycle fishing nets.

In January 2018 to deliver this plan Odyssey Innovation Ltd. was created to collaborate with the Ocean Recovery Project, charities, ngos, government bodies, the fishing industry, recyclers, manufacturers, Innovators and businesses, in order to find long-term sustainable solutions to tackle marine plastic pollution by incorporating the circular economy.

For manufacture, Rob approached Palm Equipment, in Clevedon, near Bristol, a based leading kayak manufacturer, with a recycled material suitable for roto moulding. Within a matter of days, the world’s first prototype marine plastic recycled kayak was produced.

Several prototype kayaks were created of varying styles, which are currently being used for campaigns throughout Europe to retrieve and raise awareness about marine plastic.

In December 2017, the ocean plastic recycled kayak project was highly commended in the category of Tomorrow’s Contribution to Sustainability at the Cornwall Sustainability Awards ceremony. In 2018 it also received the highly commended award for the Best Contribution to a More Sustainable Tomorrow through Innovation. Odyssey Innovation started selling the kayaks in January 2019.

In Tumbes, a village in southern Chile, Bureo, a start-up founded by three North American surfers, is collaborating with local fishermen to keep hundreds of tonnes of discarded fishing nets out of the ocean each year. Nets are sorted, cleaned, and cut in Bureo’s warehouse in Concepción, a city a few miles from Tumbes.

Here they are turned into 100% recycled polyester and nylon pellets, called NetPlus, which are sold to companies as a sustainable alternative to first-use plastics. Patagonia’s hat brims now use Netplus, accounting for 60 tonnes of recycled material, while Trek uses it for bike parts and Humanscale for office chairs.

What you can do: Purchase products made of recycled plastic.

Discover Solution 207: Sewing with seaweed

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