It is from the Netherlands that solutions are coming to deal with the plastic which we throw away everyday. This has accumulated in the Pacific and elsewhere as islands in the middle of an area called “The Doldrums”.[1]

Charles Moore[2] came upon these islands made of plastic debris in 1997 when he was returning home from a transpacific race and called attention to this fact with his article “Trashed: Across the Pacific Ocean, Plastics, Plastics Everywhere”.[3]

These “doldrums” are areas where there is little wind and anything that floats finally finds its way there – bottles, fishing wires, nets and bags.  There are five similar areas around the planet with these characteristics and, they are now the most contaminated in the world.

About 250 billion pounds (lbs) of plastic pellets are produced for the manufacture of plastic products every year and the consumer has to start consciously to look for alternative products to use in their daily lives.

WHIM, a Dutch architectural firm has designed a floating island for the North Pacific Gyre and would be totally built in plastic. The idea is to recycle the plastic on site and thus avoid shipment of materials across the ocean. It will be an eco-friendly island housing 500,000 people.

Recycled island_Pacific


Apart from the urban areas, the island will have beaches, agriculture and mainly seaweed cultivation. The project covering 10,000 square Kms is being funded with a grant from the Netherlands Architecture Fund and will be completed in 2020.

The island will use 97 million pounds of floating plastic found in the area, be powered by wave and solar energy, with seaweed used as bio fuel in homes and fertilizer in the fields. The firm has also conceived a hollow plastic brick which will be used as the base for the construction.

The new community will be self-sufficient and could serve as a model to many more where plastic has accumulated on the five oceans, also helping to create more habitable land for all. The fact that it is between San Francisco and Hawaii will also help in bringing tourists who are looking for a sunny vacation.

From the Netherlands as well comes another idea to clean up this area of the world by literally removing all plastic debris by suction. A monumental hoover.

The idea came from a 19 year-old-student[4] who in 2011 handed in his final paper at the local secondary school with his solution to saving the world from the accumulated debris in the five gyres.

The research focused on plastic and plankton separation, the depth of plastic within the top layer and other depth measurement devices and won the Best Technical Design at the Delft University of Technology in 2012.

The results of his studies were brought to the world through TEDxDelft 2012[5]. At iSea Clash of The Concepts, The Ocean Cleanup project was awarded second prize by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment in 2013.

The idea for a platform-shaped manta came to him while he was underwater diving in the Azores sea.

Source: Manta – The Ocean Cleanup Project – Boyan Slat

The idea is to build 24 Manta platforms fixed to the sea bed and through filtering let the ocean currents do the work. The plastic collected would be recycled and… re-sold, a business predicted to fetch 500 million dollars.

What Charles Moore had predicted 15 years ago as 79,000 years to clean up the oceans of plastic debris has been narrowed down to 5 by Boyan Slat’s invention, to clear up the Pacific plastic island, now the size of 6 countries the size of France.

But prevention should be the order of the day and let’s celebrate Environment Day remembering this year’s motto


By Silvia Pelham

[2] Captain of the Oceanographic Research Vessel Alguita.