Lebanese American University students and environmental activists completed the maiden voyage Sunday of the country’s first ever Phoenician-style trireme made of thousands of plastic bottles, an initiative that organizers say is “bringing people together” to fight pollution. “I feel relieved,” Alan Kairouz, the boat’s project manager and a campus activities official at LAU, said upon arrival at Beirut’s Zaitunay Bay following the roughly six-hour boat ride south from Jbeil. A family member lifted Kairouz’s T-shirt sleeve to reveal a sunburn, while the soundtrack to the film Pirates of the Caribbean blasted through speakers in the reception area.
The trireme’s voyage comes after years of public outcry over the Lebanese government’s waste mismanagement, particularly after a peak in the trash crisis in 2015.
And though the boat does not immediately solve Lebanon’s littering problem – mountains of garbage remain standing in a number of cities, threatening to topple over into the sea – the plastic bottle trireme combats a “lack of awareness,” Kairouz said.
The project goes back at least five months, when LAU students, activists from the environmental NGO CHREEK and high school students across Lebanon began collecting used plastic water bottles to be used in constructing the boat.
The build was a way to “bringing people together for one cause,” raising awareness of Lebanon’s environmental woes while celebrating Lebanese heritage, Kairouz said ahead of Sunday’s voyage.
“Lebanon has a huge issue of pollution,” Kairouz said. “The best way [to tackle pollution] is to start with something simple.” And in a country where the vast majority of residents rely on bottled drinking water, “water bottles are the easiest thing to collect,” he added.
Kairouz estimates a total of 20,000 water bottles went into building the 13 by 4-meter trireme, which boasted a blue foam horse’s head at the bow and a tail fashioned of water bottles stuffed into a mesh tube. The floorboards were made of compressed plastic bags.
The arrival early Sunday evening in Beirut came after more than six hours of sun-drenched sailing along the Lebanese coast, as a red Civil Defense boat tugged the trireme and its eight crew members south. Unlike an authentic Phoenician trireme, the LAU boat featured no oars and a banner bearing the university’s logo served as the sole “sail.”
But Kairouz says the trireme is an example of how Lebanese activists can fight pollution from the grassroots level. “This ship is built for Lebanon by the Lebanese.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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