The Plastic Odyssey will set sail next year, powered by your recycled plastic

Sustainability |  2 min. read

The fuel for the ship of the future?

Not dilithium crystals.

Not hypermatter.

Nah, this ship…

…is going to use your old (plastic) water bottles for fuel.

True — the Plastic Odyssey isn’t the Starship Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon — but (apologies to Star Trek and Star Wars fans everywhere) it is real — setting sail next year (though since this is still a work in progress, the final ship may look a bit different than that picture).

And even if it isn’t dilithium, the science behind turning plastic bottles into fuel does have a cool-sounding name:  pyrolysis.

That’s part of the reason for the Plastic Odyssey, in fact.  To show that there are solutions to the problem of plastic in the ocean — like pyrolysis.

Here’s what that means:

Pyrolysis: pyro, meaning “fire” or “heat” — produces lysis, “separating”.  Put together, pyrolysis means using high heat (without oxygen) to chemically take apart a material, like plastic.

So pyrolysis goes beyond recycling plastic, and actually breaks plastic down to the stuff it was first made from.  Then that “stuff” can be used to make new things.  And since most plastics are made from petrochemicals (which are produced from oil or natural gas), that “stuff” is excellent for making fuel.  For a ship, in this case.

Here’s why that matters:

Being able to turn old plastic into new raw material:  like turning water bottles into the ingredients for making fuel — that’s a powerful tool both for keeping our environment clean, and for wise use of our natural resources.

You can learn more, and watch as this project unfolds at Plastic Odyssey.

And who knows, maybe one day Chewy will be tossing used water bottles into the Falcon’s new pyrolytic processor — getting ready to outrun a new generation of TIE fighters.


Up Next

This plastic house can withstand 300 MPH winds

Meet the new brick. It's created from re-used plastic and it makes a great building material.