The Environment

Architect Ramon Knoester is Turning Polluted Plastic in Rivers into Floating Parks

By 2050 it's forecast there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean...

Images: Ramon Knoester / Recycled Island

The fact that the oceans are polluted to the point of disaster is a pretty easy think to ignore, but the stats are all too real.

Currently 90 percent of seabirds have plastic in their bodies due to ingestion patterns. By 2050, that number is forecast to have risen to 99 percent, and it’s said that there will be more plastic in the ocean than there will be fish.

So what’s being done? The long story short is not enough, but one architect from the Netherlands is looking to do his part to begin the road to recovery – by taking the plastic from the Nieuwe Maas river just before it reaches the North Sea and using it as a building material for stunning floating parks and gardens.

Architect and innovator Ramon Knoester is the man behind the Recycled Island Foundation. He’ll have the first floating garden up and running by the end of the year in Rotterdam, giving the polluted plastic a new value as a floating capacity for green environments, and after that he’s looking to Antwerp and London.

We caught up with Ramon at the Edinburgh International Science Festival to talk about the pioneering plan, which has been nine years in the making, since the architect first discovered how badly polluted our oceans are.

“We were always thinking about innovation in floating houses and wondering what kind of material we could use,” he said. “Then I read about the plastic pollution that was floating around in the Ocean and it just made sense to try and use that material.

“At the moment most of the floating houses around kind of copy how they are made on the land and are more or less just thrown in the water.

“For me it’s a big shame. At one end [the pollution and the plastic in the ocean] is a natural disaster, and at the other we’re looking to innovate and create new environments. We should be able to combine these two.

“I always something would be possible. Now that we’re working on the rivers we actually have the proof that it’s possible.

“It’s kind of logic. It’s the same plastics as your normal waste in your normal kitchen. It’s really all the same. So there’s no difference between the plastics in the river and what you throw away in your kitchen. Even more, the plastics that we find in the river are cleaner than what is in your home because it’s already been washed.

“The other general idea is that, if they bring their plastics to the recycling or the waste disposal, people don’t actually see what’s happening with it. We also want to make disposals visible.

“We’re shooting a documentary about the process. We’re going to launch the documentary when we open the first floating park so that people can actually see the final project, stand on the project, jump on the project and really see the quality of plastics that have been taken from the river and the strength and potential of it.

“Hopefully people become aware that if you collect your plastics and hand them in, you can still make nice, new products with it. So hopefully one day we’ll reach the point where people will say ‘okay we’d like to have more floating parks and more floating structures, so we should be more careful with our plastic waste’.

“Next we have to find a continuation. We’re setting up a production line from the harvesting of the plastics, to the sorting, to the recycling, to the production of the floating landscapes.

“All the elements are there and they exist but they’ve never been combined. Once we’ve set that up it’d be a shame to let it go to waste again! So we want to find continuity, in Rotterdam for start, and then we’re already looking to expand into the EU – we’re talking to Antwerp and the Port of London is seriously interested.

“Now that we’re moving towards the realisation we’re getting more and more interest from other countries who also have a waste problem; which there is a lot of!”

Thanks to Edinburgh International Science Festival for hooking us up with a ticket, head to their homepage to check out the rest of the schedule!

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