Located between Hawaii and San Francisco, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating column composed largely of particulate plastic residues that may cover an area twice the size of Texas. Exact determination of size is difficult, due to the inability to image the area with satellite imagery (the particulate polymeric residues which saturate the water are not visible via satellite).
Even as “trash patches” pop up in other oceans, The Netherlands Architecture Fund has dreamed up a wild idea to transform this “dirty” patch into a green paradise. Under its plan, engineers would build “Recycle Island”, a floating island nation, from polymers both from the shore and from those harvest from the water. The WHIM architecture firm is collaborating on the project, looking at how an urban paradise could be constructed in the unusual location.
The project has three primary goals. The first is to create on-site recycling of the particles of plastic floating in the water. That would help with the second goal, which would be to establish a stable and seaworthy island. Lastly, the island is to be self-sufficient with its own sustainable food and energy sources.
Under the plan, the island would cover 10,000 km2, roughly the size of Hawaii’s main island. The island would be its own nation, with its own laws. It would sustain agriculture, in part, from “fertile ground” formed from compost toilets. The project founders say it would be an ideal home for “climate refugees”.
Ideas floated for power include solar, wave, and wind energies. Seaweed would be farmed for fertilizer, food, fish farm feed, biofuel, CO2 capture, and medicine. Chemicals like ammonia, nitrate, phosphate would be harvested from the water in the trash patch.
The project is starting out small, currently looking to gather samples of the water/plastic mix in the garbage patch. Its organizers are reaching out to recruit chemists and engineers to help figure out the ideal way to recycle the slew into usable material for their envisioned island paradise.
The idea is outlandish and at this point seems unlikely (if merely for economic reasons), but it does seem a charmingly futurist vision. The full project plan can be found here.
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