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Recycled Island  (Source: Recycled Island Project)

Living quarters on the island  (Source: Recycled Island Project)

The island's "fertile ground" made of seaweed and human manure fertilizer.  (Source: Recycled Island Project)

A seaweed farm bordering the island  (Source: Recycled Island Project)
Island nation would give recycling a whole new meaning

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 km
2, 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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By bradmshannon on 7/15/2010 12:17:43 PM , Rating: 5
I say go for it! Get the F out! Send ALL the environmentalists that are making life miserable for everyone else!

RE: Awesome!
By Breathless on 7/15/2010 12:19:47 PM , Rating: 5
I agree, this is a dream come true for us all! How can I help make this a reality?

RE: Awesome!
By Mitch101 on 7/15/2010 1:54:24 PM , Rating: 5
Dont know but I'm about to pinch someone a new backyard.

RE: Awesome!
By espaghetti on 7/15/2010 2:51:58 PM , Rating: 1
The first time in a long time I genuinely laughed out loud.

RE: Awesome!
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 7/16/2010 7:30:24 AM , Rating: 2
They're environmentalists, not engineers. Wow, they figured out how to float millions of tons on dispersed particulates that barely have enough combined bouyancy to float themselves. Awesome. Now I know why they "believe" in global warming.

Honestly, I checked the calendar to see if it was April 1st.

RE: Awesome!
By paydirt on 7/16/2010 11:28:48 AM , Rating: 2
durrrrrrr. It's pretty obvious that the floats wouldn't be solid plastic; they would be air trapped in plastic containers.

RE: Awesome!
By tigz1218 on 7/15/2010 2:52:23 PM , Rating: 3
Lets throw a huge party! We will use only recyclable bevarages and cups and the next day we can donate it to island! We need to make sure the island is big enough to hold all of them! Wooohoo!!

RE: Awesome!
By Cygni on 7/15/10, Rating: -1
RE: Awesome!
By bradmshannon on 7/15/2010 1:00:35 PM , Rating: 5
I'm not for environmental reforms that ruin the economy and make everyone's lives miserable. The environmentalists that I speak of are for such things.

RE: Awesome!
By FITCamaro on 7/15/2010 1:54:06 PM , Rating: 4
Most Americans are for things that save them money or improve their lives. Cap and trade doesn't do either. Buying a $1000 washing machine to save $50 a year on their water and electric bill doesn't. Wind and solar power don't. Electric cars don't. Etc.

People don't mind recycling if its made easy. The same environmentalists who want to build this island have stopped the expansion of nuclear power.

RE: Awesome!
By lelias2k on 7/15/2010 7:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, if it was up to you we'd still be driving 70's muscle cars getting a whooping 15mpg and with a whole bunch of pollution coming out of their exhaust pipes.

Extremists, on both ends, are necessary so we can reach a compromise in the middle.

RE: Awesome!
By Jeffk464 on 7/16/2010 10:31:16 AM , Rating: 2
From what I have heard a lot of the old muscle cars didn't get poor mileage. They had high octane fuel(made possible by lead) which allowed them to boost compression ratios, which gives you better mileage. All this for the small cost of causing minor(probably) brain damage to a generation of kids.

RE: Awesome!
By FITCamaro on 7/16/2010 1:01:21 PM , Rating: 2
Not hardly. I believe i letting auto manufacturers build cars people want to buy. The most popular vehicle in America, the F150, gets 15 mpg though. I'm fine with basic pollution controls. But when the government is controlling how a car is built down to forcing manufacturers to include tire pressure sensors because people are to lazy to check it on their own, its gone to far. But the hybrids wouldn't be getting tax breaks that's for sure.

If I have the money to drive a gas guzzler, that's my business, not the governments. And a company should only stop offering one when it doesn't make financial sense to. Not because the government told them it doesn't their approval through incredibly high mileage standards.

RE: Awesome!
By mmntech on 7/15/2010 1:07:19 PM , Rating: 2
Ha, I was thinking the same thing. They can live on their island, make it their own socialist paradise, and run it how they see fit. Of course we'll see how long it's economy lasts.

RE: Awesome!
By tmouse on 7/15/2010 1:15:32 PM , Rating: 2
Hey if they only take a tenth of the crap governments dump on us every day they could build another Pangaea.

RE: Awesome!
By the3monkies on 7/16/2010 1:17:00 AM , Rating: 4
Ya fuck em all. Bring back the good old days when rivers burned and tap water melted your teeth. Acid rain, leaded gasoline, toxic smog - I get all teary-eyed just thinking but on how good life was before the environmentalists ruined the world for real men. And don't get me started on mercury - aren't those Japanese flipper-kids just adorable!

RE: Awesome!
By sgw2n5 on 7/16/2010 2:50:13 PM , Rating: 1
Anyone who hates ALL "environmentalists" or is dumb enough not to realize that an individuals level of "environmentalism" can vary widely HAS NEVER BEEN TO LA IN THE EARLY 80's.

Believe it or not, not all environmentalists are: AGW proponents, anti-nuclear, anti-corporate, d-bags.

I just happen to like clean air, clean water, and like to appreciate nature without garbage mucking it up. So sue me.

RE: Awesome!
By phxfreddy on 7/16/2010 9:11:41 PM , Rating: 2
Woot! Agree completely!

By the way: You are NOT green if you use an air conditioner.

Seaweed and Crap
By jthistle on 7/15/2010 12:49:23 PM , Rating: 3
That place is really going to smell.

RE: Seaweed and Crap
By corduroygt on 7/15/2010 1:23:58 PM , Rating: 5
That's because of the poor hygiene of its hippie inhabitants

RE: Seaweed and Crap
By HotFoot on 7/15/2010 4:32:03 PM , Rating: 5
Psh... today's modern hippie is the child of successful career-oriented parents. They have no idea about financial realities or what the phrase "hard times" means, because mommy and daddy have spoiled them since birth.

RE: Seaweed and Crap
By JonnyDough on 7/15/2010 4:00:54 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, with the ocean breeze and the fertile soil (which will grow good plants to clean the air, and a ton of good pollutant cleaning bacteria) this place ought to smell pretty good after a bit.

By marvdmartian on 7/15/2010 2:56:38 PM , Rating: 2
The article covered power generation, but didn't mention anything about something much more important.....fresh water. I don't care how much you've thought out everything else, without fresh water, you're a barren desert out in the middle of the ocean.

Also, I don't imagine the density of the garbage is the same across the whole expanse. What are they going to do when they hit a big old area that's just not dense enough to support their plans? Bring in more garbage?? And what happens if they drift into an area where they're more subject to storms?

One great thing about this idea, is that if they do it right, and become a sovereign nation, they have an instant money maker on their hands. Just set up a satellite communication system to hook up to the internet (or do cable, which would help to tether it in one area), and become the only nation in the world where copyright pirates are more than welcome to set up base. Pirate Cove? Come on in! Want to share music or movies? Here's some server space for you to use!

And since they don't have treaties with any other country, no one can come out and tell them they can't do it! Win!!

By MindParadox on 7/15/2010 5:21:21 PM , Rating: 2
Fresh water could be generated from, oh, i dunno, maybe, desalination plants? ya know, the simplest of which are boilers with filters and multiple chambers?

its this new technology man, you should read up on it in the late 60s popular science magazines :P

Apostrophes Cause Catastrophes!

By marvdmartian on 7/16/2010 9:48:28 AM , Rating: 3
Uh, yeah, man, I know all about desalinization plants. In fact, I've worked on steam powered flash-type fresh water plants.

They could also use reverse osmosis plants, for that matter. I was only identifying the problem, as they're going to be in the middle of the salt water "desert". But whatever they use is going to require more power, as the only non-powered method I'm aware of, for producing fresh water, would be rain collection or a very slow evaporation (solar powered, per se) method using sea water.

There's also the problem of not wanting to pull your sea water directly from the area around the garbage pile because....well, it's a garbage pile! Even navy ships won't make fresh water inside of 12 miles from shore (and that, only for non-potable use......25 miles out for potable water use). Drawing water from far enough out from the garbage pile will require a pumping station that -surprise!- adds to your power requirement.

Perhaps you should put away your smartass gene for a while now, eh? ;)

By namechamps on 7/16/2010 1:17:25 PM , Rating: 3
Desalination plants require energy and a LOT of energy.

Any floating city would be hard pressed to generate enough electricity by wind & solar to power the city much less also produce enough water to both supply the residents but also irrigate the plants.

Desalination is easy. Desalination without fossil fuels or nuclear power not so easy.

The desert analogy is accurate. The lower power density of alternative energy combined with the high power requirements of a city at sea is a massive engineering problem.

By dapneym on 7/15/2010 2:06:33 PM , Rating: 3
I really hope some of the other comments have been meant as sarcasm because frankly I think it's a bit much to associate all environmentalists with hippies and socialists. I know plenty of people who care about the environment and actually try to protect it, yet they are neither socialists nor are they hippies. They're average people who recognise that if we want to maintain or better our standard of living on the long-term we do need to take care of the planet.

Anyway, I think the idea of the island is quite cool. It would need a lot of engineering work, and it seems like it would be very, very expensive to build. Maybe it's not the most feasible right now, but it is still an interesting concept, and a good way to clean up some of the rubbish that's in the ocean.

RE: Wow...
By SteelyKen on 7/16/2010 12:27:36 AM , Rating: 4
Your comment is a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately all articles/blogs here are without fail followed by tiresome and inane political blathering complete with pointed fingers towards some left or right wing scapegoat.

Lately I have thought of writing Anand an open letter in the Anandtech forums to ask he sever the news redirects from Anandtech to Daily Tech. I feel his association with this website has tarnished Anandtech and further cheapened the brand. I know all things must change and nothing stays the same forever, but ten years ago I would have never believed what a sad place this has become.

I will leave now so you can continue reading about the carnage Bush and Obama have wrought on this poor innocent nation. /roll eyes

By rcc on 7/15/2010 1:32:19 PM , Rating: 2
I say go for it. Just don't ask the taxpayers (of any country) to pay for it.

And, just out of idle curiousity, what are they going to do when they drift into someone's territorial waters. Or oil rigs, or heck, just an island.

News Flash.... Hey guys and gals, Greentopia has become wedged behind Midway Island. Unfortunately, this is causing the southern neighborhoods to push up into the northern neighborhoods, and oh, in other breaking news there is a Typhoon headed for the Western Pacific. Good luck folks!

I suppose they could try to tether it to a seamount somewhere, but given the size.......

RE: Cool
By marvdmartian on 7/15/2010 2:47:47 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed, no taxpayer money (though you just KNOW they'll try to get "foreign aid" from the US government!).

So far as typhoons go, I don't believe Midway gets too many of those, just due to their geographical location. Being east of the date line, and as far north as they are, they're sort of in a zone that doesn't see many of those storms, if my information is correct.

There is a problem on Midway with garbage from the patch washing up on shore, and they say that most of the sea birds there have been found to have bits of plastic in their guts, so having this island wash up on the shores of Midway isn't too much of a stretch of the imagination.

RE: Cool
By rcc on 7/19/2010 3:29:07 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't really need to be a typhoon, and decent size Pacific storm will do. : )

By HrilL on 7/15/2010 1:47:15 PM , Rating: 2
Alright that seems cool and all but honestly the pacific gets some pretty big storms. These storms would be able to rip this place apart. How can they have a floating island with 50 foot swells or bigger? I could see this being a catastrophe of massive proportions. Who is supposed to rescue these eco tards? Who would pay for it?

RE: Storms!!
By Camikazi on 7/16/2010 9:28:35 AM , Rating: 2
Rescuing them would cause us to use fuel, they would not want that, so it would be like the old saying: Sink or Swim :)

How bout trying land first?
By rtrski on 7/15/2010 1:12:45 PM , Rating: 3
Re-mediate a landfill into a self-sufficient, paradisaical high-rise arcology complex, then I might buy you've got a clue how to begin to do this. It'll have all the same resources available, and not be thousands of miles out at sea.

Until then, GTFOOH. And stop stealing settings from Greg Egan books.

Oh noes!
By geddarkstorm on 7/15/2010 2:12:34 PM , Rating: 2
Exact determination of size is difficult, due to the inability to image the area with satellite imagery

How did we ever figure out the size of things or map landscapes without satellites to hold our hands? Lewis and Clark totally had a GPS and access to Google maps. Never mind those wacky, crazy vikings.

Ugh, seriously, are people that incompetent? Probably not, most likely no one CARES enough to even try to map this thing. Put any weight on it and it'd just break apart.

Evolution of a Protocell
By Bruneauinfo on 7/15/2010 5:55:07 PM , Rating: 2
Must have been what the first bits of RNA sounded like way back when.

Pirate Bay
By AnnihilatorX on 7/15/2010 6:22:56 PM , Rating: 2
The island would be its own nation, with its own laws.

After Sealand, Pirate bay may get another chance to set up their own country =)

Won't work
By Belard on 7/16/2010 3:14:03 AM , Rating: 2
They SHOULD build some sort of recycling system out there to suck-up the junk.

But to build a city and farm land...? Another non-functional utopia.

Consider how much Hawaii and other tropics get a beating from storms... such an artificial island would be ripped apart.

netherland based
By Jeffk464 on 7/16/2010 12:47:54 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm if they do marijuana "coffee shops" and legal brothels like Amsterdam, they might just come up with the money to pay for this thing. :) They probably need to move it closer to San Francisco though. Interesting idea, if they completely reprocess the plastic I see no reason why you cant make plastic "house boats" probably need some carbon fiber or fiberglass mixed in to give it enough strength. One thing, since its the open ocean and not mobile, what about major storms?

Law of the Sea Traty
By jdindallas on 7/28/2010 6:39:16 PM , Rating: 2
They will never get to be a independent nation or have there own laws. The UN law of the sea treaty specifically prohibits forming artificial islands anywhere in international water and declaring them a new nationality. This applies to building artificial landforms (rocks sand ect) piled up to above the mean high tide line. If it floats the law of the sea considers it a ship even if it doesn’t have any propulsion the very fact it floats makes it a vessel and as such must fly a flag of a host nation, if a ship is flagless a nation that is a member to the law of the sea treaty may “recover” said un-flaged ship as there own and assert legal ownership of the drifting flagless vessel for the benefit of the host nation.

Already exists...
By EricMartello on 7/16/2010 12:20:40 AM , Rating: 1
A floating island of trash you say...I believe we call it the Philippines...

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