In the four months it took British adventurer and banking heir David de Rothschild and crew to sail a boat made of discarded soft-drink bottles from San Francisco to Australia, Americans used some 8.7 billion plastic bottles. Drawing attention to that waste was the point of Rothschild's voyage aboard the Plastiki, a 60-ft. catamaran built with 12,500 recycled plastic bottles and a fully recyclable plastic material called Seretex and held together with organic glue made from cashew-nut husks and sugarcane. The bottles were packed into the Plastiki's pontoons in a pomegranate-like structure, giving the boat 68% of its buoyancy. Rothschild's mission to change the public's perception of plastic continues as his team brainstorms new ways to reuse the commonly discarded material in everything from surfboards to wind turbines. "Every year in the U.S., we are throwing away a billion dollars' worth of building material," he tells TIME.