Tunisia holds the world’s first race with boats made out of recycled materials

Young people from Maâmoura pose with the boat that they made out of recycled plastic bottles. (Photo posted on Facebook)
Young people from Maâmoura pose with the boat that they made out of recycled plastic bottles. (Photo posted on Facebook)


A group of about thirty young Tunisians from the northeastern city of Maâmoura built six boats, as well as other innovative objects, from plastic bottles that had been discarded in their seaside resort town. They have been racing their boats in an event meant to raise awareness of the environment.

Several organisations, including the Association for the Protection of the Maâmoura Coastline, joined forces to lead a series of workshops for young people from the Nabeul governorate. Under the tutelage of an instructor from Poland, the students learned to turn one man’s trash into another man’s treasure during a workshop held between July 6 and July 16, 2017. The original “Bottle Race” project began in Poland.

Young people who participated in the project test their boats on Maâmoura beach. This video was posted on Facebook on July 14, 2017.

"With 3,000 bottles, we built six boats"

Over the next few days, the team behind this project will hold several boat races in Maâmoura and nearby Korba to test the seaworthiness of their boats crafted from recycled materials. Our Observer, Mohamed El Benney is the president of the Association for the Protection of the Maâmoura Coastline. He said he was impressed by young people’s commitment and hopes to welcome even more participants in the workshops next year.

First, the young people went all over to pick up plastic bottles. They looked on the beach and downtown but the most probably came from the car parks near the beach. That’s where people toss their rubbish without even thinking about it. We could actually pick up between 400 and 500 bottles a day from these lots.

Rubbish abandoned in a car park near Maâmoura beach. Photo by our Observer on July 18, 2017.  

This plastic waste ends up in the sea or in the lagoon, depending on the direction that the wind is blowing. It’s a threat to the marine ecosystem and the migrating birds who find refuge in the nearby wetlands.

We were able to build many things with the more than 4,000 bottles that we collected. We used 3,000 bottles to make our six boats. The young people got creative with the remaining 1,000 and used them to make all different objects, including furniture.

We even made the paddles out of recycled materials like old cutting boards and the handles of shovels.

Participants in the workshop used old bottles and plastic film to make a raft. Photo posted on Facebook on July 13, 2017.

The finished raft and paddles - Facebook, July 14, 2017. 

"We hope to build partnerships with environmental organisations"

One of our goals was to organise the first race using boats made out of recycled material to be held in the sea. A similar event was held in Poland, but the race was held in a canal and not in the open water.

We decided to embark on this adventure as a way to both raise awareness about environmental issues but also to highlight the tourist potential for our city. We were blessed with incredibly rich flora and fauna and we should preserve it.

The young people who participated in our workshops really enjoyed their experience. Next year, we hope to welcome even more of them, especially if we can build partnerships with other environmental organisations in the world.

On June 13, 2017, Tunisian authorities created a division of the police devoted to environmental issues. One of their main tasks is to help deal with the rubbish piling up in the metropolis of Tunis, which has reached crisis levels. Police are now supposed to fine people who throw their rubbish in the streets. For now, the environmental police only act in this restricted capacity.

If you want to know more about this project, you can send the organisers a message on their Facebook page. You can also send us an email at observers@france24.com and we’ll pass it along to them!