This Seaworthy Boat Made of Discarded Plastic Bottles Was Designed by a 19-Year-Old

It's designed by a 19-year-old.

plastic bottle boat
PHOTO BY Facebook/Project Blue Ilocos (Shantelle Gamponia)

(SPOT.ph) When it comes to marine pollution, the Philippines is one of the world's biggest culprits. According to the United Nations' SEA Circular, up to 0.75 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year—and that's just from the coastal areas in Manila Bay. Upon "seeing so much trash around, especially single-use plastics," Adem Inovejas, a 19-year-old mechanical engineering student from De La Salle University, thought of making a functional boat made from 1.5-liter plastic bottles. After months of planning, building, and testing, he came up with a plastic-bottle boat that can fit up to four people and a buoyancy that can accommodate up to six 65-kilogram individuals.

Making the Plastic Bottle Boat

In an online exchange with SPOT.ph, Inovejas revealed that the project was inspired by similar plastic-bottle boats made by Sungai Watch, which is a community river-cleanup organization in Indonesia; and Madiba & Nature, which is a non-profit organization focusing on circular economy in Africa.

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"I wanted to do this here in Ilocos," he said. While he was born and raised in Manila, the engineering student would visit his hometown in Ilocos Sur during holidays or school vacations. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, he went back to the province.

plastic bottle boat
"Our boat is made out of 350 pieces of 1.5-liter recycled plastic bottles with a bamboo frame to keep it lightweight and strong," Adem Inovejas posted on Project Blue Ilocos' Facebook page.
PHOTO BY Facebook/Project Blue Ilocos
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plastic bottle boat
It can fit from three to four people, but its buoyancy and floatation can accommodate up to six people with an average weight of 65 kilograms.
PHOTO BY Facebook/Project Blue Ilocos
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"I studied available photos and videos of their boat for a few days and then made some drawings and plans of a modified boat design," he said.

Designing took about three days in February and the actual construction started in the end of February through the help of locals in Pacis, Sinait. Being able to work on it only on the weekends, it took about three weeks for them to complete the boat. Testing started only in May because of the COVID spike in April.

"Essentially, I believe that this project is like hitting three birds with one stone: first, trash in the community will be reduced; second, there would be education on recycling and trash segregation in the barangay level; and third, an additional boat will be available for the barangay to use. Seeing others innovate ideas for the betterment of the environment and the world is definitely one of my major inspirations in continuously finding solutions in my advocacies of ocean pollution and marine conservation," the student explained.

plastic bottle boat
While Inovejas designed the plastic-bottle boat, it was the locals led by Jaymar Reyes who did the actual construction. The group call themselves "Boys of Pacis." 
PHOTO BY Facebook/Project Blue Ilocos
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plastic bottle boat
Barangay Pacis sits beside a river that leads to the West Philippine Sea.
PHOTO BY Facebook/Project Blue Ilocos (Shantelle Gamponia)

Project Blue Ilocos: More than Cleanups

The plastic-bottle boat is also aligned with his vision for Project Blue Ilocos, which is a youth-led non-profit organization that Inovejas founded on his birthday. It started as a "cleanup idea that turned into an organization after realizing that cleanups aren’t enough and that we have to be more sustainable." Their slogan "something more than cleanups" is the driving force behind projects that provide sustainable solutions and raise awareness on ocean pollution and marine conservation. The plastic-bottle boat, according to him, can be scaled up as soon as they have proof of concept. Locals can then turn their trash into something useful.

When asked whether his engineering subjects have something to do with how he designed the boat, Inovejas explained that he has "always been fascinated with design and engineering, especially when [he] saw how smart and innovative my classmates and peers were at such a young age." He recalled how some of his fondest childhood memories include building small bridges and ramps from soil, and playing with LEGO blocks in elementary school.

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"Both of my parents are also engineers, but I was a stubborn kid who didn’t like asking for help and wanting to find things and solutions my own way. So I love to learn on my own, but they answer questions I’m curious about. But still, the most important thing that my education has taught me is that teamwork and collaboration really is key to the success of projects and any other endeavor. I’m still early in my engineering education, but I think what has helped and motivated me the most in designing the boat were my advocacies on helping the environment and interest in innovation and engineering," he explained.

At present, Inovejas is focusing on the funding and social media presence of his plastic-boat project, especially since he plans to expland it to different coastal barangays. He is also keen on having more cleanup drives, trash audits, and educational campaigns with Project Blue Ilocos. 

For more information, visit Project Blue Ilocos' website and follow them on Facebook.

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