Boats made from recyclable materials prove seaworthy in Great Lake Erie Boat Float

The Bay Village Sea Scouts paddle a boat they constructed out of post-consumer recyclable materials. Photo by Richard Gash

The 10th annual Great Lake Erie Boat Float was held on Sept. 8 at Edgewater Beach. The Boat Float is a fun competition in which participants build boats using post-consumer recyclable materials.

The purpose of the event is to help raise awareness about the impacts of plastic on the environment and of course to have fun! The event is hosted by Sustainable Cleveland, the Cleveland Metroparks, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. 

This year, the Bay Village Sea Scouts entered the contest. Their group was led by Sea Scouts leader, Richard Gash, with five scouts as the crew. The crew members were Leo Cavalier, Nick LaRosa, Isadora Miller, John Cannata and Gwynn Miller. They constructed a boat using large white plastic drums that were donated by a local farmer and had previously contained a biodegradable herbicide. They also used a wooden pallet that had been utilized to ship a consignment of aluminum plate.

The team found a sail in the loft of the boat shed used by the Sea Scouts and they constructed the main sheet out of braided plastic bags. The team was very creative in the construction of their boat, and they won the “Most Seaworthy Float” award! The materials used for the boat will be disposed of properly, with the large drums being used as rain barrels and the pallet will be used as a rack for paddleboards at the Bay Boat Club. 

The competition was judged this year by Dr. Marcus Eriksen. Marcus is co-founder and research director at The 5 Gyres Institute. In 2009, Marcus sailed on the S.S. Junk (a boat he made out of plastic bottles, and other “junk” he found) from California to Hawaii to raise public awareness about plastics in the ocean. He has since sailed 35,000 miles through all five subtropical ocean gyres to discover new garbage patches of plastic pollution.

Marcus's plastic pollution research in the Great Lakes and subsequent discovery of plastic microbead pollution in the lakes led to the federal Microbead-free Waters Act of 2015. You can learn more about Marcus and the 5 Gyres Institute at

The Great Lake Erie Boat Float is a ton of fun, and I hope you will consider getting a group together and entering next year ( I also hope that you will continue to feel motivated to avoid single-use plastic in your life.

The United Nations Clean Seas Campaign estimates that there are 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean. Without significant change in human behavior, this number will increase.

You can make a difference by refusing to use single-use plastics. Each one of us has the power to make a difference in the world. 

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Volume 10, Issue 18, Posted 10:07 AM, 09.18.2018