Plastic Island

In the tradition of futurism, and with an optimistic belief in progress and the machine, we have conducted a study into cleaning up plastic from the ocean. This is a technical and at the same time romantic study of a solution to a global problem that no one owns. How do we remove the non-degradable plastic soup from the oceans? The research is being conducted in the Great Pacific where a floating rubbish heap that is three times the size of France can be found 1000 miles off the coast of California.

Getting the work done with the ball

There are 5 large gyres in the oceans. These are circulating sea currents that keep the oceans balanced and stable. These huge plastic accumulation zones are the final destinations for plastic in the ocean. The plastic mainly stays there, circling around and around, until it breaks down and becomes so small that it falls to the ocean floor. This is why the island does not need to travel around the world. It remains in one position and locally fishes out the plastic, which has a relatively high concentration. Kilometre-long membranes are dragged against the current with digitally controlled kites, using a method inspired by ideas of Dutch scientist and astronaut Wubbo Ockels. Once the rubbish is on the island, it can be separated or even processed into a raw material.

Inspiring icon

Dutch astronomer and TV presenter Chriet Titulaar would have been fascinated by this powerful design. As a concept, it has to be appealing, but above all it has to be inspiring. At the same time, it has to be a simple and accessible potential solution with pictures that would not look out of place in an old edition of the Dutch science magazine ‘Kijk’. We wanted to draw attention to the problem in a positive manner, and that has happened. Support also came from the Dutch plastics industry and it gained attention through talks and publications for the Dutch Federation of the Rubber and Plastics Industry (NRK), Boskalis, Van Oord, and BKVB.

With thanks to / created in conjunction with: Jorne Jongsma and Wubbo Ockels