10 Jan 2019

High tech vessel in Pacific plastic battle

5:17 pm on 10 January 2019

A high tech boat on a global mission is bringing Pacific islanders together in the fight against plastic waste.

The Race for Water vessel is powered by solar energy and a kite

The Race for Water vessel is powered by solar energy and a kite Photo: Supplied

The solar and wind powered Race for Water catamaran is in Fiji this week as part of a five year global expedition which takes in several Pacific islands.

The vessel visited Rapa Nui, Bora Bora, Tonga and Samoa before arriving in Fiji.

Scientists on board the boat are doing tests on the level of microplastics in the ocean and results are still to be analysed, said Race for Water project leader Camille Rollin.

A recent multi-university study showed 97% of fish were found to have swallowed some form of plastic debris in areas of Auckland, Samoa, Tahiti and Rapa Nui.

The Race for Water boat hosts school groups and workshops to raise awareness about plastic pollution when it arrives in port.

Ms Rollin said the mission is also trying to offer solutions for the Pacific's relatively small remote communities whose only options are to export plastic waste, if they have enough volume, or dump it as landfill.

The islands are all looking for solutions to deal with plastic waste and the boat's tour is helping governments, business and local communities connect, she said, pointing out that a group from Rapa Nui is now in France looking at technology which could help local communities turn plastic waste into energy.

"What we managed to do so far with the project in Rapa Nui is to make people from the Chilean government, people from the energy producers on Easter island, the community of Rapa Nui agree on working together on project implementation."

The mission is promoting compact units developed by the French company ETIA which can process 5 to 12 tonnes of plastic waste a day and convert it into electricity for up to 6000 families.

French company ETIA's Biogreen techology pilot site

French company ETIA's Biogreen techology pilot site Photo: Supplied

The plants could address lots of issues small islands face, Ms Rollin said.

"Our will is to have some site in the Pacific where we could then analyse the concrete impact we have in terms of economy, in terms of job creation, in terms of environmental benefits to be able to show more to other islands or other countries."

The Race for Water Foundation was set up in 2010 by Swiss entrepreneur Marco Simeoni who aimed to demonstrate sustainable solutions for ocean conservation do exist.