Dutch architect Ramon Knoester has an ambitious plan for how to turn all the plastic trash currently stirring in the Pacific Ocean's north gyre into treasure: use it as material to build a Hawaii-sized floating island, and make it home to the world's most eco-friendly society.
The floating island would be located somewhere between Hawaii and San Francisco and be 100 percent self-sufficient and sustainable. Aside from being recycled entirely from plastics and other material currently circulating in the Pacific Ocean (thus helping to clean up the mess), the island would also support its own agriculture and get all of its power from renewable sources such as solar and wave energy.
When it's up and running, Knoester hopes the island will support at least half a million residents, as well as a thriving tourism industry lured by the island's green design and tropical location. Perhaps the island could even serve as a new home for climate refugees fleeing island nations such as Tuvalu or the Maldives, as sea levels rise and engulf their homelands.
Since it will be a floating island, WHIM intends to make transportation on the island heavily canal-based, which will also help symbolize the community's connection to the water. Agriculture will be made possible due to seaweed harvesting and compost toilets. All in all, the island is expected to be 10,000 square kilometers in size, roughly the size of the island of Hawaii-- surely one of the world's great engineering marvels once completed.
Knoester estimates that it will take years to gather enough plastic before there's enough to melt together to form the gargantuan island, but it's the astronomical costs of putting the whole thing together that might be the project's biggest obstacle. The idea will also need to lure enough committed and enthusiastic future inhabitants to be economically viable.
There's also the question of whether there's even enough solid material floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to create an island with. Although the patch does have higher concentrations of plastic waste than average, much of that waste is microplastic, or tiny fragments of debris which have been eroded by the ocean over time.
Even though the idea is outrageously ambitious, WHIM is betting that Recycled Island will end up being the most sensible solution to the world's growing ocean pollution problem. One thing is certain: the debris field stirring in the North Pacific Gyre only stands to grow in size if nothing else is done about it.
You can check out the project's website for more information about Recycled Island, or learn more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch here.