The pollution of the seas by plastic waste is a worldwide problem that is currently on everyone’s minds. In Rotterdam, the Recycled Island Foundation has retrieved plastic waste from the city’s rivers and port to create a prototype floating park, which is now open to visitors.
According to a report commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, more than 1,000 cubic meters of plastic waste is transported every year down the Meuse River and into the North Sea. The plastics come from landfills, agriculture, sewage and inland shipping. They ultimate reach the river through a number of methods, including dumping, littering and run-off.
A machine – known as the “plastic fisherman” – can extract as much as 100 tons of plastic waste per year by catching it before it flows out into the North Sea. Catchpits in rivers and harbors are designed to prevent plastic waste from entering the sea at all. More than 98 percent of the waste floats in the first meter below the water surface, the most of it even in the first 50 centimeters. This makes it possible to collect the garbage quite effortlessly. Recirculation basins prevent it from being washed out of the catch basin when the waves swell.
Several different experts were asked to get involved in the project – Wageningen University for both recycling waste and the method used to clip the blocks together, the Better Future Factory for the engineering, and HEBO Maritiemservice for all its experience in cleaning the Port of Rotterdam.
Aiming to illustrate that recycled plastic from the open waters is a valuable material, the 140 square-meter, floating landscape comprises a series of hexagonal blocks made entirely from recycled plastic waste. Most blocks have an open structure through which the roots of the plants grow. This creates a root thicket below the water surface. In these spaces algae and other aquatic plants can thrive ideally. In addition, they serve as food source for the river dwellers. The islands are mobile and therefore very versatile. They can serve as a retreat for the lunch break as well as, for example, as a stage or spectator area for open-air concerts right on the harbor.
With the prototype park open, the organization is now looking for expansion options. Its ultimate goal is to incorporate several aquatic platform types into the park, while finding a permanent location to collect plastic from the Dutch harbor.