An engineer from Cameroon is making fishing boats out of plastic bottles

Ismael Essome, an engineer from Cameroon, is reusing plastic bottles to create fishing boats. 

The African country annually produces over 600,000 tons of plastic waste and more than 6 million tons of waste in general, according to the Cameroon’s Environment, Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development ministry. 

For Essome, creating the boats is a way to enrich local communities and protect the environment. 

“This allows us to collect around three to five tonnes of waste each month,” he told the Associated Press (AP). “One part is used to make boats, the other part is used to make trash cans and other bottles are stored. We provide them to certain partners.”

Essome has reportedly been using hundreds of plastic bottles that he and his team have gathered from beaches and urban areas. Under his organization Madiba and Nature, he donates plastic bottle boats to local fishermen free of charge. All of Madiba and Nature’s funding comes from donations, and it has been able to make 15 boats so far. 

One local fisherman, Camille Dimale, told the AP that he has used his plastic bottle boats for almost a year.

“It is light and easy for me to use because sometimes I go fishing alone,” he explained. “So I can easily transport this canoe and bring it into the water, carry it, move it around without needing any help. It is not easily spoiled, so it is more economical, more durable. No need to be afraid that it will break, and it will not leak. It is really very practical.”

Though Dimale was satisfied with his boat, George Menye, a senior engineer for Douala Autonomous Port (the company responsible for managing the Douala port), expressed some concerns over the boats’ safety. 

“There are still many improvements to be made on these boats,” Menye said. “Therefore, a fisherman who wants to take these boats should increase personal safety measures. That is to say, surround himself with anything that is buoyant (for example a lifejacket), anything that can keep him buoyant at all times. Because if it ever happens that these bottles decay at sea, he could at least float with what it has on him.”

According to the AP, Essome acknowledged that there was room for improvement but that the boats are suitable for small-scale fishing in calm waters. 

In the clip above, you can see Essome stand upright on one of the boats in still waters, demonstrating its functionality.

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