Around the World on Rubbish

Is it possible to drive around the world using rubbish? Apparently it is.

I bought this old school bus from a scrap yard and with the help of friends, got it running, refurbished the inside into an eco-home using reclaimed materials, and converted the engine to run on used cooking oil, to see if we could drive around the world using things that others have thrown away.

In September 2009 I set off from London, England, heading east and about two years later I made it back to the UK. All our fuel had been made from sources of other peoples’ waste.

It’s not the first Eco-experiment I’ve tried. In 2007 I drove a “chocolate powered lorry” to Timbuktu using biodiesel made from factory waste cocoa butter, and a year later I organised the Grease to Greece Rally across Europe for cars converted to run on restaurants’ waste fryer oil.

Now we’re planning to fly using fuel made from plastic trash. One of our partners has developed a process to turn non-recyclable plastic waste into fuel using Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis. We’re going to use that fuel to power an aircraft for an amazing journey, and there’s room for passengers to join us in the aviation history books on the first ever rubbish-powered flight. Watch this space.

There is a point to all this, somewhere. Leading scientists think that if everyone on the planet reduces their personal carbon footprint to two tonnes a year by 2050, we’ll stave off the worst effects of man-made climate change. But in some countries that requires an 80-90% drop. I’m curious to discover if that kind of dramatic reduction is possible and what compromises it requires. These rubbish journeys are eco-experiments to see if we can look to technology to answer this challenge, or if we have to rethink how we live and interact with each other and the planet.

There’s no doubt any more among the consensus of scientists; man-made climate change is happening. The real questions are; how bad will it be, what can we do to reduce it’s impact, and who will suffer most?