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For many years now, Dutch architect Ramon Knoester has been harboring a dream - To recycle the plastic that is polluting our oceans and transform it into a beautiful inhabitable island. He began his work in earnest in 2010, after receiving a grant from the Netherlands government. While it has taken a few years, and he has had to make some tweaks to his original plan, it seems as though this rather impossible sounding idea may actually become a reality, in the very near future.
Knoester's original idea was to extract plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a 500-mile area of toxic waste that extends from California to the Sea of Japan, and construct an island, the size of Hawaii. He would begin by recycling the plastic waste and use it as the foundation. Once that was firmly placed, seaweed cultivation and compost would be laid over it to create fertile ground. In order to be completely self-sustaining, the 'green' island which would be big enough to accommodate 500,000 residents would be powered by solar and wave energy and also, have room for agriculture and livestock.
However, as he began working on the plans he realized that this would prove to be more challenging that he had originally envisioned because of the cost of dredging up the plastic from the middle of the ocean. Not one to give up, he looked for other potential venues. He finally settled on the mouth of the Maas River that runs through France,Belgium and the Netherlands carrying along with it, trash from these countries that it dumps into the North Sea. Also, instead of building an entire island, Knoester decided to begin with floating parks and villas.
Collaborating with students from the Rotterdam University, local government officials, as well as, chemists, naval architects and engineers, he has designed and recently released mock-ups of his new venture that he calls - Re: Villa. Inspired by luxury yachts the self-sustaining ultra sophisticated homes will include beautiful gardens and similar to the 'recycled island', be completely 'green' right down to the compost toilets and rainwater filtration systems. His design incorporates a prefab foundation built from the plastic debris that fits together like puzzle pieces. The houses will be built such that they capture both solar and wave energy. Though the villas are still in concept phase, the architect does hope to have the first recycled plastic public park prototype up and floating by late 2014.
Knoester believes that once floating villas become more acceptable and cheaper ways to extract plastic from the ocean become available, there is no reason why his original idea of building a giant recycled island cannot be achieved. There are of course many challenges still left - among the biggest one of which is whether the plastic will prove to be a strong enough foundation. And then of course the biggest question of all - If they build it, will people come?
But regardless of the outcome, just the notion that something this radical can be done, may inspire others to think up of smaller projects, that helps clean our oceans one plastic bottle at a time!