Watch how ocean plastic is re-used in optmist dinghies. ​​

Optimist dinghies made of recycled plastic

"Optimist for the sea" ("Optimist för havet") is a project that puts focus on the huge amounts of plastic in our seas. To raise awareness of this problem, Chalmers and SSPA have built optimist dinghies out of plastic debris collected along the Swedish coasts with the help of volunteers.
The optimist dinghies are being built by experts at Chalmers and SSPA. The plastic debris has been sorted, ground down, encapsulated and hardened. Now, the first optimist dinghy is ready and it will be named during the Gothenburg Boat Fair by Team Anna, one of the project's four ambassadors and 10-year-old Freja Björling Duell from the Sailing Society Kaparen in Gottskär south of Gothenburg. The name has been chosen in a social media vote.

"It is great fun to name our first finished dinghy made of debris from the sea. Of course, it is good that the plastic in the sea can be used, but the solution to the problem is not to clean it out but instead to stop the supply. This is where we can make a difference by showing off our fine dinghies and through education,” says Thomas Hansson-Mild, project manager for the Swedish Sailing Association.

Study on the environmental effects

As part of the project Optmist for the sea, students at the Master's program Production Engineering will do a life cycle analysis and compare the manufacturing processes with new materials versus recycled plastic. The purpose of this study is to assess if the reuse of such plastic waste in new products actually generates a positive impact on the environment. The study will tell with more certainty whether reuse is a better alternative compared to destroying the plastic.

"Because the material we use is recycled plastic, we have high hopes for a positive environmental effect when it comes to the material extraction. But there are still questions about the manufacturing process and the use of the product. We want the optimist dinghy to perform just as well as other dinghies, and we do not want them to leak any hazardous substances,” says Mélanie Despeisse, Assistant Professor at Chalmers University of Technology.

More information

"Optimist for the sea" is a three-year collaborative project run by the Keep Sweden Tidy foundation (Håll Sverige rent), Swedish Sea Rescue society (Sjöräddningssällskapet) and the Swedish Sailing Association (Svenska seglarförbundet) with financing from Postkodlotteriet. The main purpose of the project is to show how much debris gets into the sea and thus contribute to reducing the supply.
About 30 cubic meters of garbage was collected by volunteers during the spring and summer of 2018 along the Swedish coast line, of which six cubic meters of plastic debris was sent to Chalmers. The public, volunteer sea rescue and other actors have been involved. The Sea Rescue Society has optimized four environmental rescue trails to facilitate the collection of the garbage. In total, five dinghies will be built.
The building is done at SSPA Sweden AB by Christian Finnsgård, research director, John McVeagh, boat builder and sailor and Giada Lo Re, Associate Professor at Chalmers University of Technology.

Published: Thu 31 Jan 2019. Modified: Fri 01 Feb 2019