Simon Bernard is a graduate of the French merchant navy. He founded Plastic Odyssey, an NGO that aims to reduce ocean pollution by promoting plastic recycling solutions adapted to developing countries.

  • What is Plastic Odyssey about?

Plastic Odyssey aims at fostering the creation of local recycling companies in Southern countries, with ready to use, cheap and open-source recycling devices and technologies, made to help tackle coastal cities’ failures in managing excessive plastic waste while helping local actors financially benefit from recycling. We propose open-source and low-technologies devices which transform unsorted and uncleaned plastic waste into construction materials, such as floor or roof tiles. We also have a boat, the Plastic Odyssey, who is thought to be the emissary of the causes we fight for. With a capacity of up to 25 people, it is designed as a laboratory and incubator, forged to welcome local actors all around the globe and invite them to engage with plastic waste recycling, further forging a huge community of environmentally aware people! Our boat will depart from Marseille in September 2023 for a three-year expedition all around the globe, with a specific focus on South America, West and Sub-Saharan Africa, and East and Southeast Asia.

  • How does it contribute to the environment?

Plastic Odyssey contributes to the protection of the environment by making green behaviors financially profitable for those who wish to engage with recycling. In the coastal cities where our activities are developed, local actors are financially incentivized to recycle, as the production of material construction goods from plastic waste and sand as only two raw materials become key economic development tools. A double outcome is therefore reached: the past is cleaned up, and economic development favors a brighter tomorrow, desired plastic free and based on enhanced entrepreneurs’ autonomy: building the future.

  • Which was the main challenge you faced to launch your own business project?

I think that leading people to believe in Plastic Odyssey and in our potential to achieve far-reaching effect was one of the most challenging moments I faced. Plastic Odyssey is not a simple project either; as our motto reminds: “Clean up the past and build the future”! Cleaning the past implies efficient, easily deployable technologies, and local actors to believe in your technologies. Building the future means being able to make believe understand more than believe, act more than think about doing so. All in all, getting people on board, metaphorically more than literally, may have been the most complicated step in the project. Yet, I believe that, the more we get people on board, the more newcomers wish to join as well. I have good hopes for the future!

  • Do you have any young talent that inspired your career?

I’m not sure there’s any one young talent really, as I’m very young myself. Looking back at my years of schooling, I feel like university benches were filled in with motivated peers, all willing to make a change. This has surely been highly beneficial to my ecological realization too.

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