Environment minister sets sail on world's first recycled plastic boat

London: A boat made from 99 per cent recycled plastic waste took its maiden voyage on the River Thames in London yesterday, with Environment minister Thérèse Coffey among those on board tasked with fishing for litter to help raise awareness about the damaging effect of marine plastic pollution.

Part of a project spearheaded by sustainability charity Hubbub, the 12-seater 'Poly-Mer' punt is made from a material known as 'Plaswood' which is made from 100 per cent recycled, single-use plastic.

Boats elsewhere have previously been made at least partially from recycled plastics - including those manufactured by the PlasticWhale fishing company in the Netherlands - but Hubbub claims the Poly-Mer is the first in the world to use such a high proportion of recycled material.

Backed by media giant Sky through its Ocean Rescue green campaign, the vessel was made by Richmond-based boat builder Mark Edwards MBE, who previously built the Queen's barge 'Gloriana'.

The boat is earmarked for 'plastic fishing' trips on the Thames around London's Docklands and Canary Wharf for local businesses and pupils of Canary Wharf College. The recyclable material collected from the river could then potentially be used to build more plastic boats, the charity said.

Hubbub also envisages the plastic boat being used for public and corporate away-day plastic fishing trips in future, with the money raised through the venture used to fund continuing educational marine plastic awareness trips for schools.

Trewin Restorick, chief executive and co-founder of Hubbub, said the initiative was aimed at highlighting the "terrible impact" of plastic pollution, adding that 80 per cent of plastic in the ocean is discarded on land but still finds its way into the water.

"We built the Poly-Mer to turn part of the problem into a solution and hope it will raise awareness that everyone can play their part to tackle plastic litter closer to home before it travels out to the ocean," he said. "We'd love to hear from people in other areas of the UK who are interested in getting involved with plastic fishing as we expand the fleet."

Having caught a football as well as plastic bottles, bags and plates on her fishing trip yesterday, Coffey - whose brief includes the natural environment, marine environment, waterways, waste and recycling - praised the initiative.

This is an excellent and creative solution that demonstrates the damaging effect littering and plastics can have on our environment and wildlife," she said in a statement. "We are already taking significant steps to tackle this important issue - by planning to introduce one of the world's toughest bans on plastic microbeads and taking nine billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p carrier bag charge.

"Furthermore, we have now launched a call for evidence to help understand how deposit reward and return schemes for plastic bottles and other drinks containers could work in England."

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