The Plastic you could get to admire.
August 8, 2010 2:00 AM   Subscribe

Dutch Architects envision a self sufficient floating island in the Pacific.
Recycled Island would be located in the North Pacific Gyre or Garbage dump NE of Hawaii.
Richie Sowa did this before on a smaller scale with his first Spiral Island. You could say that Plastic makes it possible.
( Richie Sowa previously)
posted by adamvasco (22 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
...but would it be run according to Libertarian principles?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:15 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

All I can think of is that a murder mystery on this island would be an awesome Stephenson story.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:25 AM on August 8, 2010

It would be very challenging to make it totally self sufficient. Furthermore the stresses placed on such a floating thing would be very challenging. What happens when A bit of wind pushes against your 100 mile coastline at 10mph. That's a lot of surface area and a huge stress on your structure. You'd need lots of anchors and bits to hold it together. Also you rant solving the problem of these plastics breaking down into microparticles and screwing up the food chain. How about instead we just get a couple dozen of converted cargo ships and just go vacuum the trash up under UN supervision. We can institute a global marine shipping tax per container to cover the costs.
posted by humanfont at 2:39 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

After the plastics kill off most of the fish and make the rest inedible, what will the islanders eat? Technically, cannibalism is self-sufficient, but probably not sustainable in the long term unless fresh eco-tourists are shipped in.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:45 AM on August 8, 2010

If they can get CBS-TV and Mark Burnett on board to stage a "Survivor" season there, they'll be all set.
posted by amyms at 2:46 AM on August 8, 2010

I just keep thinking about one of those huge freak waves washing the entire plastic island clean before pounding it into pieces. Like a modern day, plastic Titanic.
posted by russmaxdesign at 2:56 AM on August 8, 2010

"All I can think of is that a murder mystery on this island would be an awesome Stephenson story."

Or a Greg Egan novel.

I love the audaciousness of this idea, but there would be all kinds of practical problems like the ones humanfont already mentioned. Another problem would be what to do with all the toxic chemicals these floating plastic bits have absorbed, since any construction process that involves heating would probably set them free again.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:02 AM on August 8, 2010

You're missing the fine print. It's the island that is self-sufficient. The island contains everything a floating plastic island needs. The needs of the residents are a different story.
posted by Ritchie at 4:42 AM on August 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

Really, the biggest problem I see with this idea is actually collecting the plastic. Sure there's a lot of it but it's in the form of small particles floating around in a hell of a lot more water; you would need to filter truly heroic quantitiesof Pacific seawater in order to harvest the plastic.

If you could pull it off I could see how the end result would be stable; it would basically be like any land mass but floating. You wouldn't anchor it, you'd let it float around; that's why you put it in the Pacific Gyre. If it does threaten to intercept land you might need thrusters to reposition it. (I hear you can get an obsolete aircraft carrier cheap; ask Neal Stephenson about it.)
posted by localroger at 5:09 AM on August 8, 2010

People: We all need to make intelligent, rational choices about what we choose to consume and what we throw away. There is no need for a floating garbage island.
posted by kuatto at 5:57 AM on August 8, 2010

It sounds like somebody's been toking up and listening to the Gorillaz again.
posted by JeffK at 6:34 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dry land is a myth!
posted by samsara at 6:45 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Unless I'm mistaken, as localroger said, the plastic out there isn't all styrofoam cups and shopping bags, it's broken down particles. Removing it from the ocean isn't a matter of just skimming it up, it would need to be filtered out. As long as they manage to collect all that material wouldn't it make more sense just to take it back to land to recycle it properly?
posted by Mokusatsu at 7:21 AM on August 8, 2010

"All I can think of is that a murder mystery on this island would be an awesome Stephenson story."

Or a Greg Egan novel."

Or it's already been done (kinda) as Armada from China Miéville's The Scar.
posted by Standeck at 7:45 AM on August 8, 2010

The folks who write up these proposals need to hang with old sailors down on the wharf. See examples of inch thick steel warped and twisted just from being tied up wrong, not even from a really bad storm. Not that a man made autonomous island can't be made, but all the proposals with beautiful promenades and nice landscaping strike me as grant bait or wacky PR attempts. I think something like that will happen but a successful environment look more like a sampan village.
posted by sammyo at 8:04 AM on August 8, 2010

At least it already has a record devoted to it...
posted by juiceCake at 8:57 AM on August 8, 2010

Considering the plastic particles absorb PCB and other chemicals that cause the fish food chain to become toxic - why would you want to 'self sustain' on that?

(now plastic instead of sawdust in the pykrete - all you need is energy to keep your frozen ship together. )
posted by rough ashlar at 9:02 AM on August 8, 2010

Here's another idea: we retrofit five idle supertankers with strainer scoops and onboard petroleum reclamation plants powered by the recovered fuel oil and a hybrid solar system.

There. I saved the pacific from the gyre. You can thank me with a copy of this.
posted by clarknova at 9:09 AM on August 8, 2010

Great. I hope they build it and I hope it works. I hope that I don't read about more and more proposals about how to fix this thing. I hope they just get to fixing it and I can have one less thing to feel existential dread over.
posted by dobie at 10:29 AM on August 8, 2010

Why not just genetically engineer cetaceans to eat plastic bits and other refuse. Lower cost and we can always render them to oil later. Think of them as enormous plastic grazing cows. Heck we could probably generically engineer a microorganism to get into the cetaceans gut and have it do the work of breaking the plastics and stuff down into something more consumable. All I need is 2 billion, a lab and a few graduate students.
posted by humanfont at 3:14 PM on August 8, 2010

Cool. Now all they need to do is import some polar bears and a smoke monster.
posted by bwg at 5:13 PM on August 8, 2010

Deep-Sea News response from a scientist who has actually studied the plastic in the gyre: “Recycled Island” not a cure for plastic trash in ocean

Basically, you'd probably end up removing a lot of the plankton in the Pacific in the process of scooping up all the tiny particles of plastic.
posted by cephalopodcast at 6:17 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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