What's made of plastic, the size of Hawaii, and powered by wind and solar energy? If Dutch architect Ramon Knoester succeeds with his vision, it will be Recycled Island, a sustainable, floating society constructed from a collection of all the Pacific's floating plastic debris.
WIDE ANGLE: Drowning in Plastic
Koester went public with his ideas for Recycled Island, which would support its own agriculture, a community of inhabitants, and even tourists from its position somewhere between Hawaii and San Francisco, in 2009. His firm, Whim Architecture, is now in the process of designing a prototype of the 10,000-square-kilometer habitat with a grant from the Netherlands Architecture Fund (according to the firm's website).
SLIDE SHOW: The Great Atlantic Garbage Patch
DNEWS VIDEO: WHAT’S AN OCEAN GARBAGE PATCH?
Still, Koester estimates it will take years once they begin gathering plastic in from the Pacific before they have enough to melt together (using solar power) into the island, as he told CTV News. No one really has any idea how much debris is out there. Though the media tends to refer to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” as a floating island of sorts, sometimes even saying it is nearly twice the size of the continental United States, other sources disagree. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a thorough article about “De-Mystifying the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch.'”
Regardless, even that article agrees that plastics make up most of the debris found in the ocean, and Recycled Island could be one creative solution for how to clean up and reuse some of it. Seaweed and compost toilets will make the island fertile, and the living arrangements are envisioned as urban, mixed-use. Since the city will be floating, Whim plans to keep the residents' connection to the water, with a canal-heavy design. It will be powered by solar and wave energy, with the aim of having zero negative environmental impact and remaining completely self-sustainable.
About a half million residents –- slightly less than the population of Baltimore -– could reside on Recycled Island. Though I'm sure they could come up with some interesting reasons for moving there (shipwrecked, saw oasis, got turned on to solar farming?), the project itself will likely remain in the economic red. Just cleaning up the ocean before building begins is a gargantuan task of time, energy and expense that's simply mind-boggling.
For more about plastic pollution in the Pacific and the ongoing saga of the “garbage patch,” check out the news responses from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and this interview with a Scripps Institution of Oceanography Ph.D. student who went aboard an NOAA ship that was studying plastic debris in the Pacific.
Image: Whim Architecture