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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 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.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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