Boat being build out of plastic waste

LAMU, Kenya – The beaches of Kenya’s idyllic Lamu island are dotted with traditional Swahili stone and coral houses, mansions built by European royalty, the odd donkey and, increasingly, tidal lines of plastic trash.

When a resident organised a beach clean-up that collected 33 tons of rubbish in a single summer, British-Ethiopian safari organiser Ben Morrison decided he couldn’t stand by while his beloved island was ruined.

So the tall, bearded 42-year-old decided to try to design a traditional dhow, or sailing boat, from recycled plastic, offering a market to recyclers and persuading locals to conserve shrinking woodland.

“It is getting harder and harder for boat builders to find wood. I hope that this project will allow the ancient skills of boat building to live on, by shifting from ever-scarce wood to plastic,” Mr Morrison told Reuters. Plastic pollution is a growing global problem, with patches of sea larger than some countries covered in plastic soup that strangles or poisons wildlife. The UN says by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish unless drastic action is taken.

Mr Morrison, working with eight expert Kenyan boat builders, is using plastic planks from the fledgling local recycling industry to build his boat, which he hopes to sail to Cape Town in South Africa.

Ali Skanda, a 44-year-old master boat builder, said in his childhood there was no litter on Lamu’s sandy golden beaches — just fishermen, dhows and donkeys. Now many donkeys are dying from eating plastic, he said — and so are turtles, cows and other animals.

“At the beginning I thought it was a crazy idea. There is so much plastic scattered. This is something we can do,” he said

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