SUN WORSHIPPER –
A RECYCLING-MOBILE ROLLS TO THE SOUTH POLE
Plastic lids, onion nets, yoghurt containers – all it takes is one dinner and the garbage can is full again. No wonder that in almost every household a discussion breaks out at least once a week about who’s taking out the trash. Edwin and Liesbeth ter Velde, who one evening, decided they’d had enough, took a closer look at their garbage and felt a responsibility to change their habits.
At first, the couple began recycling at home, turning plastic bottles and packaging into thin threads used by 3D printers. But what began casually in their living room soon developed into a spectacular project. The parents of three children not only turned the garbage can upside down, but also their lives. With the help of 3D printers and using plastic pallets from large waste facilities, they developed the HexCores. These honeycomb-shaped blocks can be connected in Lego modular fashion to create any structure. With this method, they created the Solar Voyager, a purely solar-powered vehicle that will cross the world’s driest, coldest and highest continent: the Antarctic.
HEADING TO THE SOUTH POLE WITH 2000 KILOS OF PLASTIC
To produce the 4000 components for the Solar Voyager, forty 3D printers were running for weeks, recycling 2000 kilograms of plastic. The fused hexagonal plates now form a vehicle and two trailers, which combined, are sixteen metres long. Ten solar panels collect enough solar energy for the bulky Antarctic-mobile and supply the small driver’s cabin with heat and electricity. On top of that, the vehicle is decked out with a wide range of modern technology. On November 28th, the two Netherlanders will set off at 8 kilometres per hour for the South Pole in their ice carriage to work on three research projects. Thanks to the polar days, the sun shines around the clock at this time of year and provides sufficient energy. The carefully rationed provisions are transported in the two trailers, while the couple lives in the small cabin in the front part of the vehicle. There’s no fresh drinking water on board, but the Antarctic ice can be melted using solar-powered vacuum tubes. The adventurers plan to complete the 2400 kilometre route from Union Glacier to the South Pole and in around 30 days, waste-free and energy self-sufficient. The name of the mission is Clean2Antarctica.
Ice Ice Baby: On November 28th, the couple set off for the South Pole with the 8 kilometres per hour, 16 metres long and only 1.485 kilograms light ice mobile. (Photos: clean2antarctica)
NOT FOR WIMPS
Edwin and Liesbeth, together with their team, have prepared well for the journey through the eternal ice. Including physically. This meant an ice cold shower every day to get used to the frosty temperatures of the Antarctic climate. But between the initial idea to perform test drives in Iceland and the operational Solar Voyager, was a journey in itself, full of setbacks and obstacles that forced the expedition team to rethink their plans again and again. The nerve-racking expedition through snow and ice is documented by a three-person film team. Besides the thrill of capturing the project and landscape, the support crew provides more security, as the treacherous weather conditions of the ice desert can be difficult to predict.
Defying the dangers of an Antarctic crossing with a 3D-printed plastic vehicle seems like a crazy idea. But the couple deliberately chose the white continent: “If you make it in Antarctica you can make it anywhere” is their motto. If the Solar Voyager can hold its own in such harsh conditions, it can also be used in any other region. There is already speculation as to whether the recycling vehicle will be used for future polar expeditions. In addition to the innovative technology, the Clean2Antarctica project is loaded with symbolic content. Legally, Antarctica will be the last waste-free continent on earth until 2048. Then people who are still children today will decide on the fate of the icy region. It’s for this reason among others, that the initiators feel a heartfelt responsibility to next generation.
Right from the beginning they collected and sorted plastic with primary school classes in the Netherlands and recycled the waste into HexCores. The tiny building blocks are decorated with the thoughts and messages of the children and will accompany the expedition all the way to the South Pole. From there those messages will be published – as a wake-up call to the world and a call for a conscious use of natural resources. With their Antarctic mission, Edwin and Liesbeth ter Velde are urging people to look beyond their own trashcan and see how something big can grow out of a small idea. In less than five weeks, these creative warriors of change will start their journey through Antarctica and we can´t wait to see what they will share of their experience.