Plastic fantastic?

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Plastic fantastic?

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Credit: Recycled island

The story:

Netherlands-based firm WHIM Architecture has announced plans to take all of the plastic waste currently floating around in the Pacific Ocean and turn it into an island the size of Hawaii.

This island will be the ideal destination for eco-tourists looking for a holiday on a fully sustainable, self-sufficient resort.  If they like it they can move in (or on) because this island will contain a city, make all of its own electricity and grow its own food (although this seems to be mainly seaweed based if you take a look at their website).

On a more serious note – the designers have highlighted its importance in being a place for ‘climate refugees’ to live on once climate change has made many areas of Earth inhabitable.

I’m personally not sure what to make of this.  It is in its very early stages – in fact the architects seem to be still figuring out if it would be possible and would it really be an eco-friendly project?

Teaching ideas:

© Copyright Doug Lee

One of the important points embedded into this project is the very real problem of plastic waste in our oceans.

Plastic does not biodegrade.  It just breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces.  The ‘plastic soup’ that is currently floating around in the Pacific covers an area twice as big as the US.

According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals as they mistake the plastic objects as food.  This has a risk to human health as well as the chemicals that fish eat end up on our plate.

The two videos below show the problem of plastic waste in the oceans and could be shown to students.  Hopefully this would motivate them to suggest potential solutions.  For a more organised activity – what about dividing the class up into groups and giving each of them a solution (developing biodegradable plastics, recycling, using alternatives to plastics, reusing plastics etc) which they have to research and present to the rest of the class as the ‘best’ solution.  This could be the basis of a good class debate.  Then the idea of the island could be shown to them – what do they think about this as a way of getting rid of the plastic in the ocean?

Alternatively, the island can be used when teaching about sustainability.  The website is very accessible and easily understood by students.  They can use it to research the ways the island will provide its own energy and food needs and discuss why the island would be classed as sustainable development.


Website about the island
News-story about the plastic soup in the Pacific
Interesting talk on the Great Pacific plastic trash island
Ocean debris turning Hawaiian beach ‘into plastic’  BBC news video