From Plastics to Pleasure, Recycling and Kayak Building on Bonaire


In his article “From Plastics to Pleasure,” Patrick Holian (for the June issue of Caribbean Compass), writes about how people are creatively recycling plastic beach trash on the island of Bonaire. This activity has many cultural implications, among them, a move to teach island youth boat building with the recycled plastics. As the author writes, “Boat building is a tradition that is quickly vanishing on Bonaire,” and it needs to be preserved. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:


As on many Caribbean islands, the windward coast of Bonaire is littered with flotsam, much of it plastic. This debris problem is symptomatic of what is happening worldwide. [. . .]  John Webb was aware of the impact of sea trash and was determined to do his small part in attacking this enormous problem. He collected nearly 440 plastic bottles along Bonaire’s windward coast and gathered enough suitable driftwood to make a boat’s frame. There was also plenty of cordage to be found, but owing to time restraints, the rookie boat builder resorted to using store-bought line. With materials in hand, it was time to begin construction. Webb crafted a frame similar in shape to a ladder, lashing the driftwood together with rope. Simultaneously, he began construction of two pontoons from plastic bottles. “It took me three days to build the kayak,” explains Webb. [. . .]

Webb launched the 20-pound plastic craft on April 5th and paddled easily in the calm waters of Bonaire’s leeward coast. A kilometre later, he pulled into the dock of Yellow Submarine, a Dive Friends dive shop where a group of about 20 applauded the kayak’s arrival. Since Webb was leaving the island the next day, he offered Bon Dia to Carolyn Caporusso. She heads up Dive Friends’ Debris Free Bonaire project (see “John has shown that you can take beach trash and make it into something fun,” says Caporusso. Debris Free Bonaire is a relatively new endeavor that promotes the collection of plastics along the island’s east coast. The dive company supplies tourists and locals with collection bags. Volunteers can dump their plastics in a trailer at Dive Friends’ Hamlet Oasis location for recycling later.

Since December 2012, the project has collected more than 60 cubic meters of plastic. “In the future we’re hoping to have a contest for local kids so they can make their own kayaks and compete in a race,” adds Caporusso. “Who knows? Maybe we will have prizes donated for the winners.” Getting youth to help clean up the beach and renew the maritime past of their forefathers is definitely a winning formula. The hand-made kayaks can be easily recycled once they have served their time on the water. [. . .]

Patrick Holian writes for Caribbean Compass, ISLANDS and Sailing Magazine; when not writing, the author can be found at the helm of his 14-foot catboat, Kontentu, “cruising the blue off Bonaire.”

Please see Holian’s article on page 12 of the Caribbean Compass (courtesy of editor Sally Erdle):

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