Notable eco-warrior and banking heir David de Rothschild today unveiled his newest project: A 60-foot catamaran buoyed entirely by 12,000 recycled plastic bottles. Aptly called the Plastiki, the craft will be making a four-month journey across the Pacific Ocean to call attention to the problem of plastic waste and how it can be reduced in new, innovative ways.

Rothschild, founder of environmental group Adventure Ecology, and his team worked for three years to make the Plastiki a reality. Attracting considerable corporate interest, they have collected a number of contributions from the likes of Hewlett-Packard, which gave several laptops, and Inmarsat, which donated satellite communications equipment.

The sailboat is outfitted with several cutting edge green technologies, including eight 100-watt photovoltaic panels, several thin-film solar panels, small wind turbines, and a few electricity-generating recumbent bikes to power electronics on deck, including computers. In the lower-tech category, there is a vertical (space-saving) hydroponic garden for growing food on board, as well as a toilet that produces compost and a rainwater collection system.

While actual empty soda bottles are stacked densely in the Plastiki’s two hulls to keep it afloat, they are encased in a non-recycled plastic casing. Apparently recycled plastic would not be strong enough to make the ambitious journey, though it was important to Rothschild that it be recyclable in the long run. Aside from that, most of the other materials were previously used, including the aluminum mast, which was formerly an irrigation pipe.

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The project was inspired by the Kon-Tiki, a boat that famed explorer Thor Heyerdahl built entirely out of wood, reeds and bamboo and sailed in across the Pacific in the 1940s.

Besides the green nature of the boat itself, the other core part of the Plastiki initiative is to use technology — particularly social media — to make recycling and waste pollution a sexier issue. All of the boat’s crew members will be tweeting their experiences throughout the trip. There will also be several web cameras installed on the deck to record activity and allow for video blogs to be posted on Facebook and the project’s web site.

[Image via The San Jose Mercury News]