Plastic Island

PLASTIC ISLAND is a 21st century ecological project to clean the ocean. Its purpose is to find a viable solution for the “plastic soup” of waste that was discovered by Charles Moore twelve years ago.

Plastic in the pacific

The gulf streams in the oceans carry huge amounts of plastics. In the North Pacific gyre there is, according to estimations, about 40 million kilos of plastic in an area of almost 9 million square kilometres. The vast expanse of debris is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 900 kilometres off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan. If that wasn’t bad enough, the really sad thing is that millions of fish, birds and even sea turtles die every year as a result of eating this plastic. The plastic soup is growing at an alarming rate, there has been a doubling between 1999 and 2004, and the problem is continuing to grow. Since the problem exists in the international waters you could say this is nobody’s and everybody’s issue.

Plastic island

Our starting point is that this predicament must be solved at the source. The plastic is no longer garbage, but a sustainable raw material that lays the foundations of an island. The island, or raft, has three functions:

  1. collecting plastic,
  2. transforming plastic into basic products,
  3. providing accommodations for inhabitants and employees.

Plastic Island is connected to large membranes pulled forward by kites, the membranes bring the underwater debris towards the island. Once on the island, the plastic is recycled to basic plastic products. Nothing but technology defines the design of the island. Since this project is in some sense isolated from having to comply with an existing environment, everything is possible. This interesting situation can potentially bring together new and unexpected partnerships. This will undoubtedly lead to surprising outcomes.

Millennium goals

The ecological hazard represented by this plastic should not be underestimated. Ecosystems are damaged, many fish and fowl consume the plastic and die through poisoning or blockage because their stomachs get filled with plastics. Larger animals can die immediately by choking. Also humans are in danger because they are on top of the food chain, toxic chemicals tend to concentrate on the way up. Something must be done about this “soup”!

After extracting and sorting the plastic, it can be recycled for new products which could be used to reach millennium goals. The building of schools and clinics, the establishments of sewage and toilets, projects for clean drinking water are but a few of the potential uses for the reclaimed plastic. The beauty of plastic is that it can take so many forms.


This project and the website are to raise awareness for this problem and to propose a win-win approach to solving it. With some core technical solutions worked out, combined with a creative design strategy, the problem suddenly becomes a great deal less abstract. It may be the beginning of a greater project, you could think of a scenario with five islands. One island for every gyre. It will be a positive symbol for the use of plastic and the ultimate proof that plastics are sustainable.


Plastic Island in 2nd round for Buckminster Fuller Challenge!

2009.12.15 tags: competition

Plastic Island is in the second round of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge! Each year a distinguished jury awards a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. The project was selected out of one of the strongest pools in quality of entries that are seen to date. Over 200 projects were reviewed from all over the world.

Plastic Soup in the media

2009.12.08 tags: media, awareness

In December two Dutch magazines feature an article on the effects of the ‘Plastic Soup’ in the Pacific Ocean, introducing this phenomenon to more and more Dutch people.

In their weekly magazine, Dutch journal NRC Handelsblad published a photo report by Chris Jordan. Jordan photographed dead Albatrosses, exposing the plastic parts that caused the birds to stop eating and die from starvation.

Also in December, the Dutch bank ASN explaines the Plastic Soup phenomenon and its consequences in their monthly magazine. ASN is an ecologically savvy bank, taking into account human dignity and sustainable development in their investment decisions.

Together, these publications show a growing awareness of the Plastic Soup, and the need to take countermeasures.

Project Kaisei takes off

2009.08.05 tags: knowledge, expedition

Project Kaisei consists of two beautiful vessels called the Kaisei and the New Horizon. A team of innovators, scientists, environmentalists, ocean lovers, sailors, and sports enthusiasts have come together with a common purpose: to study the North Pacific Gyre and the marine debris that has collected in this oceanic region, to determine how to capture the debris and to study the possible retrieval and processing techniques that could be potentially employed to detoxify and recycle these materials into diesel fuel. This first research expedition will be critical to understanding the logistics that would be needed to launch future clean-up operations and testing existing technologies that have never been utilized under oceanic conditions.

Learn more on www.projectkaisei.org

Jesse Goossens publishes “Plastic Soep”

2009.04.20 tags: publication

Eilander Architects publishes the island in “Plastic Soep”, a book by Jesse Goossens. This book of references tells how dramatic the situation is at this moment. At the same time it gives hope by showing all kinds of solutions. Therefore this book will not cause panic but will certainly get you in action!


Fonds BKVB subsidises Plastic Island

2009.01.01 tags: contribution

The Netherlands foundation for visual arts, design and architecture gave Eilander Architects the opportunity to develop a design for an island that is in fact a 21st century ecological project that cleans the ocean. After Eilander read an extensive article in the Volkskrant he decided to present his island idea to the commission, they acknowledged the need for action and provided a subsidy.





After a year of research, the plastic island project is finally on the internet. During this year many people and companies contributed with know-how, energy and enthusiasm. Many of them are Dutch. By launching this website we share the idea worldwide and hope that people will enrich the concept.

Many different professionals are member of our team at this moment. Boat engineers, recycling engineers, polymer engineers, chemists, dredging professionals, and more. From your side you can help by donating money or give us your thoughts about the concept. New input is always welcome!

Plastic Island thanks


Fonds BKVB

Plastics Europe

Vuyk Engineering Rotterdam

AKG Polymers

Spark design & innovation

Ver. Kunststofverpakkingen Nederland

Royal Boskalis Westminster nv