In 2010, the Swiss entrepreneur, Marco Simeoni, created the Foundation in Lausanne and devoted all of his entrepreneurial spirit to ocean preservation. He decided in 2014 to launch a scientific and environmental expedition, the Race for Water Odyssey 2015, to make the first one-swoop global assessment of our ocean’s plastic pollution.
The essential lesson from that journey was clear: “plastic islands” do not exist. Instead, in the middle of the oceans there is a “soup” of microplastics that moves at the will of the oceanic gyres. In effect, the idea of collecting plastic waste at sea turns out to be an utopian dream. “We quickly realized that the long-term solution was here, back on land,” Simeoni says. “It is absolutely essential to prevent plastics from ending up in the oceans.”
In April 2017, Race for Water embarked on a second oceanic tour with its project, the Odyssey of Hope. We aim to provide concrete, technological solutions for the preservation of the oceans. “In 2015, we were, in the final analysis, powerless up against the scale of the problem of plastic pollution of the oceans. With the Odyssey of Hope, and its integrated mixed solar-hydrogen-kite-powered vessel, we want to demonstrate that energy transition is happening now, and solutions do exist to protect our oceans from anthropogenic pollution.”
THE ODYSSEY’S FOUR GOALS
- Accelerate the world’s clean energy transition by demonstrating the effectiveness of our Energy-trio, solar – hydrogen – kite, that powers our ambassador vessel, the Race for Water.
- To promote innovative solutions capable of transforming plastic waste into energy resources (a machine developed with our partner ETIA, whose pilot project will be carried out Fall 2017).
- To contribute to science by hosting international teams of researchers, scientists and students on our vessel, which will be used as teaching laboratory.
- To raise awareness among decision-makers, the general public and younger generations about the urgent need to conserve the oceans.
ACCELERATE THE CLEAN ENERGY TRANSITION
Keenly aware that plastics are not the only type of pollution facing the ocean, Race for Water is committed to energy transition. “For this new Odyssey we are sailing a vessel powered only by clean energies: solar, wind and hydrogen,” Marco Simeoni says. It is essential to demonstrate that sailing with clean energy is possible, and that Race for Water shows that the clean energy transition is happening now.
“The Race for Water Foundation is demonstrating that a zero-emissions future is not a utopia – it is already becoming reality. UN Environment is proud to support the round-the-world Odyssey in this innovative vessel. This quest will demonstrate the power of renewable energies and stimulate the search for new solutions to conserve our ocean from plastic pollution.”
Erik Solheim, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
An Energy Trio: solar – hydrogen – kite
INNOVATIVE SOLUTION TO TRANSFORM PLASTIC WASTE INTO ENERGY RESSOURCE
After traveling the world’s seas, the Foundation set out in 2016 to find solutions to prevent plastic waste from ending up in the oceans. “An idea occurred to me during a conversation with a street collector,” Marco Simeoni explains. In many cities around the world, collectors are paid to collect aluminium, glass, cardboard and even the PET, and the system supports them (recycling, burning etc.). However, they do not pick up the plastics because they have no market value. “Together with our industrial partner, ETIA, we have come up with a technology capable of transforming end-of-life plastics into energy, be it gas or electricity, Simeoni says. The sale of this energy will allow us to pay the street collectors, which will encourage them to pick up end-of-life plastics.” The machine for converting plastic waste into an energy resource uses a unique and patented gasification process. The machine is currently in production and the Race for Water Foundation is waiting for delivery in the autumn of 2017, before launching a six-month pilot project.
“ETIA is continuously developing the manufacture of processes for energy recovery from waste and residual plastics in order to convert them into renewable energies, particularly those adapted to remote ecosystems (a gasification process for the production of electricity, methane and hydrogen). It is therefore natural that ETIA wished to associate itself with the Race for Water Foundation in order to develop industrial and economic solutions that are addressing both the threat of pollution of the ocean by flows of waste plastics, but also to the growing energy needs of islands and coastal towns directly impacted by this pollution.”
Olivier Lepez, managing director of ETIA
This innovative technological approach demonstrates that plastic waste can become an additional energy resource with added social, economic and environmental benefits.
Ideally suited for scientific expeditions, the Race for Water vessel, was completely redesigned in 2016 to provide optimal working conditions on board. Thanks to its 90m² dedicated to research, its stability and its energy self-sufficiency, this vessel enables teams of five to seven researchers, as well as students to travel on board. (List of projects)
Knowing that change will be driven through by younger generations, the Foundation hopes that the vessel will be a place of exchange between scientists and students.
Projects are currently being developed with schools so that students can come to learn on the vessel in collaboration with researchers. The aim is to enable as many students as possible to engage with leading scientists during the whole period of this Odyssey.
While traveling around the world, the Race for Water Foundation hopes that Race for Water will be a venue for meetings and exchanges. We are mobilizing the general public and leaders around the extreme urgency of ocean preservation, especially plastic and marine commercial traffic pollutions. We will educate as large a public as possible through our traveling exhibitions, documentaries, and conferences.
“As an Ambassador for the Foundation and sponsor of the Race for Water, I am committed to ocean conservation and advancing energy transition. As a sportsman, I am convinced that sport has its role to play in this essential transition towards a clean future. The Paris 2024 bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be inspired by the same spirit driving Race for Water’s visionary and innovative projects.”
Tony Estanguet, Three-time Olympic canoeing champion, Co-Chair of the Paris 2024 Olympic Bid, and Race for Water Ambassador