One of the challenges of cleaning up the billions of pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans is that the fragments are so small. Water bottles and plastic bags eventually break apart into tinier and tinier pieces that spread throughout the water in a messy soup. While the ideal solution might be making sure plastic makes it to recycling bins–or actually using fewer plastic products–another approach is to do a better job of catching plastic trash just before it reaches the sea.
In the Netherlands, a new project plans to use a “plastic fisher” set up at the edge of a harbor to trap wrappers, bottles, and other junk as it floats by. The collection device floats in the water, with two folding arms that reach down several meters to catch garbage in a screen. Since most ocean plastic comes from urban runoff, the team behind the project hopes that the device can slow pollution in the North Sea.
As the plastic is captured, architects plan to recycle it into building blocks for new floating parks in the river. “Industrialization has damaged the ecosystem in and around the water,” says Ramon Knoester, who is leading the project for Rotterdam-based WHIM Architecture. “With the floating parks we will reintroduce a surface for nature.”
The modular plastic blocks join together into small platforms that can support trees, plants, and space for birds above the water, using methods similar to gardening on rooftops. Under the water, the platforms will provide shelter for fish, mussels, and water plants. “We want to take the pollution from the river and give something back in return to restore and rebuild the ecosystem,” Knoester says.
Other platforms will be placed by the shoreline to add new space for recreation. Right now, much of the river is lined with stone walls and no parks or green space.
They hope to begin fishing for plastics this September. After experimenting with the best method of recycling the plastic and seeking more funding, the team plans to build a prototype of the first park next year.