Most of us have heard by now of the floating island of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean, sometimes called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. While other oceans have similar islands of plastic garbage, the Pacific island has been widely publicized as a prime example of our overconsumption of plastics and our poor methods of dealing with plastic waste. Dutch architects WHIM Architecture would like to put a more positive spin on the plastic island by making it into the first habitable ocean-bound floating garbage heap ever.
Recycled Island is a research project studying the possibilities of the ever-growing islands of trash in the world’s oceans. The project would clean a large amount of the trash out of the water while providing a new area for agriculture, recreation, tourism and urban living. The team wants to make the island into a self-sufficient, non-polluting refuge where the population produces all of its own resources. They propose the island as a home for some of the projected 200 million climate refugees who will find themselves without a home within the next 30 years due to climate change.
The island, when finished, would be about the size of Hawaii. Construction would take place on site at the location of the current highest concentration, which is in the North Pacific Gyre between Hawaii and California. Because the materials are already there, long transports could be avoided, greening the project even further. Large ships with the required recycling equipment would simply go to the floating Garbage Patch, then separate, wash, shred and melt down the plastics there. After building materials are formed from the recycled plastic, the building process would begin then and there.
Living conditions on the proposed island would be urban in nature, following the trend of the rest of the world: nearly half of the planet’s population currently lives in urban areas. But the island would also be a perfect spot for seaweed cultivation; the seaweed could be used for food, fertilizer, bio-fuel, and even to increase the fish population around the island. Composting toilets, green energy sources and other crops would help add to the population’s self-sufficiency.
There have been plenty of ideas lately about farming and populating the oceans, but this appears to be one of the most ambitious ones. Its possibility would depend largely on how effectively an artificial island could be built of plastic, and just how permanent that island would be. Whether it would hold the weight of a population and its crops – not to mention having some sort of safety measures in place for when storms hit – is still a mystery. Nonetheless, it will be fascinating to see this and other seasteading ideas develop as architects and designers continue to look toward the vast oceans as our future habitat.