Recycled Island: plastic fantastic?
Tuesday 17 August 2010
Plastic flotsam is the bane of the Pacific Ocean – now Dutch conservationists want to turn some of it into an inhabited island
A floating city of half a million people on a vast plastic island. Does that sound like Waterworld? The vision could soon be a reality if Dutch conservationists have their way. Recycled Island is a plan to clean up 44 million kilos of plastic waste from the North Pacific Gyre, which stretches from California to Japan, and provide 10,000 square kilometres (3,861 square miles) of sustainable living space in the process. Solar and wave energy would provide power for islanders while sustainable fishing and agriculture could provide their food.
According to the website for Whim Architecture, which designed the concept: "The proposal has three main aims: cleaning our oceans from a gigantic amount of plastic waste, creating new land and constructing a sustainable habitat."
There is an estimated 100m tonnes of plastic flotsam in the Pacific Gyre, where ocean currents cause it to accumulate. The floating dump covers an area one and a half times the size of the US.
Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF) was the first to find the huge, floating plastic dump in 1997. On the foundation’s website, he described it as "just absolutely gross – a truly disgusting plastic cesspool. [It] has to be burned into the consciousness of humanity that the ocean is now a plastic wasteland".
Because petroleum-based plastics are non-biodegradable, any plastic that enters the ocean stays there, continually breaking into smaller pieces until it is ingested by marine life or deposited on the shore. In a 1998 survey, 89% of the litter observed floating on the ocean surface in the North Pacific was plastic. In the Central Pacific Gyre, the AMRF in 2002 found six kilos of plastic for every kilo of plankton near the surface. By 2008, that figure had risen to 45 to one.
Birds like albatrosses eat the larger pieces which block their stomachs, while smaller pellets can cause fatal intestinal damage in fish.
Recycled Island could be a unique opportunity to save marine life. "The project should be carried out with great care so no negative influence to the environment is made," states the project’s website. "Our ideal is to return more balance to the environment and set an example of how an environment-friendly habitat could be created."
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Source: The Guardian