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Having found several images of boats constructed primarily of plastic bottles, the boy scout within me was interested by the idea. However, I know that plastic bottles biodegrade in sunlight, and the byproducts of plastic biodegration are a major pollution concern. All of the resources I encountered when researching this idea state that the rate of biodegration is heavily affected by the flexibility, density, and pigmentation of the plastic in question, but I was not able to find resources detailing the specifics.

Due to its availability, I am mainly considering a boat made of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE), which is used for standard two-liter soda bottles and Gatorade bottles. I am interested in what effects this material will have on both the lifetime of the boat and the rate/amount of pollution the boat will contribute to.

  • Not sure how to link questions, but this one is very related: sustainability.stackexchange.com/questions/734/… – Benjamin Feb 8 '18 at 16:46
  • Why wouldn't you use the bottles for some time in your boat, then discard them responsibly? Given that an adagium for waste is reduce - reuse - recycle, you extend the 'reuse' phase this way, which is good. – Jan Doggen Feb 8 '18 at 22:24
  • Most plastic is not biodegradable. This includes PET and PETE. Instead, over any interesting timeframe, they break down into smaller pieces of plastic. This is the hazard. Tiny pieces of PET and PETE floating around the environment, being eaten by things which then get sick or concentrate them to be eaten by something else which gets sick. Making a boat out of this stuff is a great way to accelerate the rate of this degradation and pollution. – Jean-Paul Calderone Feb 9 '18 at 14:52
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The boat made from plastic bottles is a nonsense. One day it falls apart and makes more pollution to the environment, than the recycled bottle.

If the boat is motorized, then this could be the source of the pollution too, as the bottle shapes usually are not optimized for hydrodynamics processes and the boat is usually very slow and consumes much more fuel than a regular boat.

I would not worry so much about sunlight degradation, as this could be a very slow process with PET bottles. Bottles will become yellow on the sunlight. Here is the whole study. This can cause some problems due to recycling. The question of what chemicals are produced by PET during such exposure is here. It could be:

  • Ethyl Benzene
  • Benzoic acid
  • 4-methyl Benzoic acid

but potential health issues were not analyzed and are unknown. Sunlight degradation of the bottles could be stopped by UV stabilizers, but usually is not.

My conclusion is:

  • RECYCLE
  • do not use plastic bottles for construction in the exterior, gardening etc.
  • buy or construct a ship of a suitable material and shape and you will save the nature.

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