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Pacific Trash Vortex To Become Habitable Island?

samzenpus posted about 4 years ago | from the welcome-to-malignancy-island dept.

Earth 323

thefickler writes "The Pacific Ocean trash dump is twice the size of Texas, or the size of Spain combined with France. The Pacific Vortex, as it is sometimes called, is made up of four million tons of plastic. Now, there's a proposal to turn this dump into 'Recycled Island.' The Netherlands Architecture Fund has provided the grant money for the project, and the WHIM architecture firm is conducting the research and design of Recycled Island. One of the three major aims of the project is to clean up the floating trash by recycling it on site. Two, the project would create new land for sustainable habitation complete with its own food sources and energy sources. Lastly, Recycled Island is to be a seaworthy island. While at the moment the project is still more or less a pipe dream, it's great that someone is trying to work out what to do with one of humanity's most bizarre environmental slip-ups."

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Something is missing here (0, Flamebait)

Whuffo (1043790) | about 4 years ago | (#32909724)

If they're going to recycle the plastics right there on the island made of the plastics - the island will gradually be turned into whatever they're recycling the plastic into. This isn't a viable project - it's just a promotional piece intended to raise awareness. No real scientist would ever propose such a lunatic scheme.

Re:Something is missing here (1, Insightful)

wtfmang! (1850368) | about 4 years ago | (#32909782)

If you don't have anything besides mockery to contribute to the story than why don't you just shut the fuck up?

Re:Something is missing here (-1, Troll)

wtfmang! (1850368) | about 4 years ago | (#32909868)

Obviously, that was a troll/flamebait, not offtopic. What an idiot mod.
Anyway, don't you fools realize that this is just an alternate username I made so that I can speak freely without worrying about destroying my karma rating on my real username? Once this one has been modded down enough I'll just create another. fucking duh

Re:Something is missing here (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910018)

Obviously, that was a troll/flamebait, not offtopic. What an idiot mod. Anyway, don't you fools realize that this is just an alternate username I made so that I can speak freely without worrying about destroying my karma rating on my real username? Once this one has been modded down enough I'll just create another. fucking duh

while you are working on reducing your karma score ... how do you feel about niggers? got any jokes?

Re:Something is missing here (-1, Troll)

wtfmang! (1850368) | about 4 years ago | (#32910322)

as a matter of fact, I do. what do you call a nigger in a shed?


Farm Equipment!

Re:Something is missing here (1)

zondag (1114149) | about 4 years ago | (#32909866)

Where does it say the island itself is made of plastic?

From the article: "The island would be built where the trash is located and would convert the waste onsite".

Something is missing here - and you are culpable (1)

Seraphim_72 (622457) | about 4 years ago | (#32909938)

You honestly believe that they will not gather more than they convert?

Re:Something is missing here (2, Insightful)

Latinhypercube (935707) | about 4 years ago | (#32909944)

convert plastic INTO island. Problem solved DUH!

Re:Something is missing here (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | about 4 years ago | (#32909984)

Also... this kind of idea may help the polar bears as well...

Re:Something is missing here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910120)

Check out Richard Sowa's Island of Plastic off Isla Mujeres in Mexico. That's just one guy with no cash...he did it up!

Re:Something is missing here (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910146)

Hundreds of years ago it seemed like lunacy to dry out land with big fans, but the Dutch figured out a way to do this. Only a pessimist can say in this preliminary stage that they'll definitely fail in this scheme.

And if pessimists were the drivers of technology, we'd still be living in caves and calling science magic.

Re:Something is missing here (5, Informative)

Vectormatic (1759674) | about 4 years ago | (#32910360)

Small correction, we dried it out with pumps, powered by windmills

But yeah, half the country is below sea-level, if you have any sort of land/see issue, we are the guys to see.

Re:Something is missing here (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | about 4 years ago | (#32910176)

Hey if they can make islands from sand and sell luxury houses on em I'd guess just about anything is possible. They have to do something about that trash .

Re:Something is missing here (1)

copponex (13876) | about 4 years ago | (#32910310)

the island will gradually be turned into whatever they're recycling the plastic into

You're assuming humans stop throwing away plastic. There are already four million tons of plastic there, and it's growing larger every day.

And, as the people involved in the project are interested in sustainability, something tells me they'll adjust their capacity so they don't accidentally destroy the platform they recycle on.

Re:Something is missing here (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 4 years ago | (#32910326)

That entirely depends on how fast trash is flowing into the collection. The patch is constantly being fed with new crap thanks to our amazing lack of ability to throw it in the trash.

Initial production may consume whats there now to build the installation/boat/whatever it turns out to be, but then it lowers to something sustainable over time eventually leveling off.

Its not like if everything out there disappears it won't be back in a couple of years.

Re:Something is missing here (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910380)

The Pirate bay was looking to form a nation not long ago. I think they'd be interested in maintaining a plastic "country", whether or not the real scientists are interested in sticking around. And frankly, at the rate we're contributing to the vortex, they will probably grow over time.

They are doomed. (1)

Irick (1842362) | about 4 years ago | (#32909730)

Noodle will surely shoot down any initial surveyors on suspicion of them being pirates, and i don't even want to know what Murdoc would do to trespassers.

Re:They are doomed. (0)

Dermah (1277738) | about 4 years ago | (#32909830)

Damon Albarn: Modern day prophet

Sink it. (1)

kylemonger (686302) | about 4 years ago | (#32909732)

Seems more sensible to make it all heavier than water and sink it. Once it's on the bottom natural sedimentation processes will bury it for good.

Re:Sink it. (1)

Psaakyrn (838406) | about 4 years ago | (#32910010)

And how do you propose making a concentration of individual pieces of plastics, chemicals, and other misc objects all heavier than water? And then not revive due to ocean currents bringing in more plastics from outside regardless?

Re:Sink it. (1)

mtinsley (1283400) | about 4 years ago | (#32910012)

Not to be pessimistic, but how would you go about sinking a blob, composed mostly of small objects, twice the size of Texas?

Re:Sink it. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910074)

Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Re:Sink it. (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 years ago | (#32910128)

Seems more sensible to make it all heavier than water and sink it. Once it's on the bottom natural sedimentation processes will bury it for good.

Why would you do that when, for equal effort, you could make a self-sustaining self-powering island from it? One that you can then sell or lease out real-estate on for ridiculous prices, because it's the only remaining unpopulated temperate coastline in the world?

Re:Sink it. (2, Insightful)

ChrisK87 (901429) | about 4 years ago | (#32910282)

The key phrase there is "equal effort".

The plastic and other debris will get gathered either way. The difference is that one way you either melt into blocks and sink it or ship it to a landfill, and the other way you go through the massive money and energy expenditure to convert it into building materials and assemble it on site into a floating recycled modern utopia.

As well intentioned as this proposal is, we will never, ever get to the point where the cheapest source of building materials is a container vessel full of assorted sea flotsam. There will always be renewable lumber, glass from or inexhaustible supply of silicates, and presumably soon plant-derived plastics that will be competitive with oil-derived ones. If we decide it's worth the investment to clean this thing up, the garbage will go to a landfill where it will either be recycled or not. But under no circumstances will the economical to build it into a floating disneyland on site. A floating garbage-packaging plant maybe, but why return the recycled plastic to make a city? Use cheaper materials instead. Or better yet, stick your new city on land within reach of a desalination plant, and not stick yourself with the engineering constraint of making everything float.

I'm all for fixing the environment, but this specific proposal is economic nonsense. I'm sure it'd be cool to live in a shiny eco-neutral star trek paradise, but wishing will not make this actually work.

Plastic People of Recyclistan (4, Funny)

Renderer of Evil (604742) | about 4 years ago | (#32909738)

We already have that. It's call Los Angeles.

Re:Plastic People of Recyclistan (1)

Kepesk (1093871) | about 4 years ago | (#32909926)

We should also think about the trash vortices in the Final Frontier. Low Earth Orbit is starting to look pretty messy...

Re:Plastic People of Recyclistan (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 4 years ago | (#32910230)

Los Angeles is not so well known for its great recycling scheme... can you tell me more about it?

To be honest, to a naive European, America as a whole is known as the most wasteful society in the world - but perhaps we're wrong?

Re:Plastic People of Recyclistan (3, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | about 4 years ago | (#32910276)

Grandparent is alluding, I think, to the rate of plastic surgery in Los Angeles.

LA is probably the most wasteful city in our wasteful nation.

Not as dense os lead to believe (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32909746)

8m2 per km2

Re:Not as dense os lead to believe (2, Insightful)

deniable (76198) | about 4 years ago | (#32910016)

That's why the linked articles didn't have any photos. It sounds like a boring photo op.

Re:Not as dense os lead to believe (2, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | about 4 years ago | (#32910224)

Not quite so.

It does not look sufficiently impressive on film. A degraded bottle every few tens if not hundred meters does not make a good photo op. There is also a lot of dispersed plastic in the water itself. However, it is not something which you can picture, post and shout: "See how we ravished the Earth". Definitely nothing that can make the same kind of statement like a picture of a pelican dipped in BP produce.

Tiny bits... (5, Informative)

Microlith (54737) | about 4 years ago | (#32909750)

The greatest problem with the gyre is that the plastic in question is untold quadrillions of tiny, sometimes microscopic, bits of plastic that have broken down under UV light and descended somewhere in the water column. You would need to filter several meters deep to filter all the garbage out.

Of course, bean counters will kill this because it's unprofitable, and everyone else will ignore it because it's so far out to sea.

Re:Tiny bits... (2, Interesting)

Psaakyrn (838406) | about 4 years ago | (#32909974)

Singapore, as a tiny island in the middle of (not-quite) nowhere, was also initially unprofitable. Look where it is now.

Re:Tiny bits... (4, Funny)

deniable (76198) | about 4 years ago | (#32910028)

Look where it is now.

Did it move? :)

Re:Tiny bits... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910104)

The greatest problem with the gyre is that the plastic in question is untold quadrillions of tiny, sometimes microscopic, bits of plastic that have broken down under UV light and descended somewhere in the water column. You would need to filter several meters deep to filter all the garbage out.

A. It's not a gyre.
B. The microscopic bits are not the problem as they will decompose quickly (relatively speaking).
C. There is no reason to filter several meters deep.

Re:Tiny bits... (4, Informative)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 years ago | (#32910172)

(a) Yes it is. Or rather, it occupies one: The North Pacific Gyre [wikipedia.org] .
(b) Yes they are. According to the first link in TFA:

The tiny pieces of plastic are “the size of a grain of rice”, small enough to be eaten by fish. Chemicals, like “PCBs, DDT, and other toxins” that don’t dissolve in water are soaked up by the plastic. Those toxic chemicals get ingested by the fish eating the tiny pieces of plastic. Those fish are eaten by bigger fish that absorb the chemicals from the smaller fish. Ultimately, the contaminated fish may wind up on your dinner tables. We already know how dangerous these chemicals can be when ingested.

(c) If the plastic is indeed spread throughout the top several meters, then yes, there is.

Re:Tiny bits... (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 4 years ago | (#32910248)

Well... scientists and engineers are able to filter micro-organisms (which are microscopic, and almost the same density as water - similar to our problem here)out of water , also when it's quite diluted. I am sure there's a way to get the tiny bits out.

The basic question is what the concentrated waste is worth per metric ton. If it's worth 1000 euro / ton, then quite a lot is possible... but it's gonna be an expensive island. If it's only 10 euro/ton, then the island is cheap, but only the crude bits will be used.

Hyperbole (5, Insightful)

Beardydog (716221) | about 4 years ago | (#32909756)

The first story I read about the patch made it sound like it was bordering on becoming an island on its own... an area the size of texas made of milk bottles and grocery bags, all rustling against each other in the waves. No other article I've seen has been that bad, but all of them making it sound much worse than it actually is.

I'm certainly not going to defend a vast region of polluted ocean and poisonous chemicals, but here's what Wikipedia has to say:
"the patch is not visible from satellite photography since it primarily consists of suspended particulates in the upper water column. Since plastics break down to ever smaller polymers, concentrations of submerged particles are not visible from space, nor do they appear as a continuous debris field. Instead, the patch is defined as an area in which the mass of plastic debris in the upper water column is significantly higher than average."

Moore's claim of having discovered a large, visible debris field is, however, a mischaracterization of the polluted region overall, since it primarily consists of particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye."
"A similar patch of floating plastic debris is found in the Atlantic Ocean."

It really doesnt sound terribly island-able. I'm sure you can scoop up enough solid material to build something, but you may have to drag a net for a couple of thousand zig-zagging miles to do it.

Re:Hyperbole (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#32909786)

It is kind of bad in some ways, there are always little pieces of plastic floating up on the beaches in Hawaii. I haven't noticed that problem so much in, say, California. I heard there are effects like killing birds and stuff, but to selfish me the worst part was plastic pieces washing up on the beach. Kind of ugly.

Re:Hyperbole (5, Informative)

chammy (1096007) | about 4 years ago | (#32909904)

The reality of it is a lot worse than most people imagine. Instead of easily manageable, solid chunks of plastic it's in the form of tons of tiny particles. This makes cleanup extremely difficult as well as makes the plastic much more lethal to wildlife. Animals try to eat the colorful bits, mistaking them for natural food sources: http://coastalcare.org/wp-content/images/issues/pollution/plastic/bird-carcass.jpg [coastalcare.org]

Re:Hyperbole (3, Informative)

mythar (1085839) | about 4 years ago | (#32909914)

the killing birds part is pretty ugly [cnn.com] , too.

Re:Hyperbole (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910058)

I hate to accuse him with no evidence, but those pictures look ridiculously staged.

Re:Hyperbole (1)

mythar (1085839) | about 4 years ago | (#32910252)

it's possible, i suppose. and, to be fair, there's no definitive proof that all this plastic is the cause of the birds' deaths. but, ugly, it is.

Re:Hyperbole (1)

tokyoahead (743189) | about 4 years ago | (#32909796)

You say that they are trying to make it look environmentally worse than it is, but I do not know really how bad you can make 4 Million tons of garbage sound like to give the reader a perspective on this. I think they make it sound better than it is. If you are trying to say that they are making it sound more an island than it actually is, you are right.

Re:Hyperbole (5, Informative)

Beardydog (716221) | about 4 years ago | (#32909908)

If the particles were chemically neutral, and harmless to see life it wouldn't be a problem at all, but I gather that the creatures in the area are greatly affected. The problem I have with most "Garbage Patch" reporting is more that they feel the need to "sex it up". The serious people of the world are capable of have care for and concern over environmental disasters that are invisible to the naked eye, but stories about the patch always seem directed at the same people who keep trying to pass 5-cent plastic bag taxes. It's become a mythical beast, a chimera whose dread legend is spread in whispers by folks who would probably be comfortable banning cars, but want no part of pebble-bed reactors.

I think (and I'm trying to clarify my own thoughts here, as well, instead of ranting ad-hominem, as I have been) that a lot of people see the mind's-eye seascape of bags and bottles of consumer and commercial excess, and the horrors of a throwaway culture.

The reality, as always, is more nuanced. Plastic bags and styrofoam cups a) go a long way toward reducing many other types of waste in our society, and b) will never go away, because they're so damn useful. Instead of railing against the very human behaviors that have created the problem or the very useful products that improved our lives tremendously for the last 60 years, we should probably focus on creating materials that break down more safely after they wind up in the ocean, or focus on our garbage gathering techniques, or hell, a couple thousand extremely expensive machines that sit in the Pacific and try to clean as much water as possible. Even that scenario is more likely than the societal changes that would be required to alleviate the patch.

End of Lunatic Ravings

Re:Hyperbole (5, Insightful)

Beardydog (716221) | about 4 years ago | (#32909958)

Wait, I've got a smidge more raving to do...

This story also reminds me of the women who recently spent three days walking around in pink shirts to raise awareness of breast cancer. They blocked traffic extremely frequently, often appointing themselves crossing guards in areas that already had lights, giving each other permission to walk in front of cars while people tried to get to and from work.

I certainly sympathize with them. I know a lot of them have lost friends and family, and they want to do something for the cause... but honestly, we're all aware of breast cancer. All of that pink shirt money, time-off-of-work money, organizational money, etc could have gone toward research. Or it could have just not gotten in my way for three days, and I think we would have all been better off. If one person had been carrying a donation bucket for research, I would have felt a hundred times better about it.

So they're building an island and making a symbolic effort at cleaning? Fantastic, I never drive through the Pacific ocean on the way to work. But they aren't making a dent in the problem, everyone with a pulse already knows about pollution, and they're misrepresenting the one problem they're even engaging in.

Actually solving actual problems usually takes a lot of money, a lot of cooperation, and and a lot of work. It isn't showy, and chicks won't think you're hot for doing it. Not everybody involved in it gets to be a manager, or collect a paycheck from their non-profit employer, or be interviewed by the local news while they hold a sign that gives heart disease a severe textual talking-to.

And I know a lot of people are doing that kind of work somewhere, but the campaigns that make the news are always awareness, or people who want to -feel- like they're fighting the good fight.

Re:Hyperbole (4, Informative)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about 4 years ago | (#32909910)

Twice the size of Texas = 537,202 square miles

4,000,000 Tons plastic = 8,000,000,000 pounds

14,892 lbs/square mile - 23.29 lbs per acre. [2.61 grams/meter square]

Of course that is only surface area... how deep is it?

That is the whole (2, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 years ago | (#32910168)

Of course that is only surface area... how deep is it?

That's the thing. There is no surface area, it's all particles submerged.

You just calculated the whole of it (by weight).

Re:Hyperbole (4, Informative)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 years ago | (#32910196)

According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

A study of marine debris near the center of the gyre as part of the Southern California Water Research Project found 334,271 pieces of plastic per square kilometer with a weight of 5.1 kilograms per square kilometer.[3]. If this 11.2 lb/km found near the center were the same throughout its estimated 20 million square kilometers expanse, the gyre would contain 225 million pounds or 113,000 tons of plastic waste. This is less than some estimates of from three to 100 million tons of plastic in the gyre.

Scale (3, Informative)

C10H14N2 (640033) | about 4 years ago | (#32910080)

Down to more tangible scale, it is roughly 3 grams per square meter. A typical cube of sugar is roughly 4 grams. Now consider that's just surface area, not volume. You're not going to be able to see much of it even if you're swimming in it.

I hope they know about thinkgeek... (3, Funny)

jddj (1085169) | about 4 years ago | (#32909758)

If they could slice it up like one of those "all edge pieces" brownie pans, everyone would get beachfront property!!

Re:I hope they know about thinkgeek... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910078)

If they could slice it up like one of those "all edge pieces" brownie pans, everyone would get beachfront property!!

Such as what property developers in Dubai are doing with the palm islands [google.com] ? :)

Re:I hope they know about thinkgeek... (1)

Reidsb (944156) | about 4 years ago | (#32910136)

I've read about this concept in the Riverworld series.

It doesn't end well for them.

Re:I hope they know about thinkgeek... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910394)

They did that in Dubai. It's called the Palm Jumeirah...

The answer to our waste problems... (2, Funny)

Nikola Tesla and You (1490547) | about 4 years ago | (#32909760)

(1) Build a ****-load of WALL-E robots.
(2) Use them to fill the ocean with trash.
(3) Sell the land.
(4) ???
(5) Profit!

Slip up? (3, Insightful)

tokyoahead (743189) | about 4 years ago | (#32909770)

What an euphemism!

This is not something that just happened one day because someone made a mistake. It's the result of decades of carelessness and ignorance.
We can be only happy that the stuff accumulates all in one place so we have at least the hint of a chance to fix it.

Try to do that with the space debris!

Where are the Pictures of Garbage Island? (4, Interesting)

Neptunes_Trident (1452997) | about 4 years ago | (#32909784)

I have heard of this huge mass in the Pacific Ocean for quite some time now. But I never seem to be able to find actual pictures or satellite images of this "Double the size of Texas" island. The only images I ever see are ones that show land mass on the horizon. Which means images that are NOT in the middle of the pacific Ocean. Won't someone help a skeptic out?

Re:Where are the Pictures of Garbage Island? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32909854)

It's not visible, even when you're in the middle of it. It's tiny (mostly microscopic) pieces of plastic in the top several metres in higher concentrations than elsewhere. You need special instruments to detect it.

Re:Where are the Pictures of Garbage Island? (1)

darkitecture (627408) | about 4 years ago | (#32909856)

I'd really like to see a decent pic too.

Re:Where are the Pictures of Garbage Island? (4, Informative)

OctaviusIII (969957) | about 4 years ago | (#32909862)

I'm unsure if "skeptic" is the right term, but a quick jaunt to Wikipedia ought to help. To summarize: it's a large area of the ocean where the concentration of plastic particles is significantly higher than normal. Most of the particles are too small to see and are essentially dissolved into the ocean. There are some bits of visible garbage floating along, but the patch still looks and acts very much like normal ocean.

Re:Where are the Pictures of Garbage Island? (0, Redundant)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 4 years ago | (#32909884)

Seconding this. If this thing is THAT BIG and horrific then why is it that there are as near as I can tell no pictures of it whatsoever? Everything I've seen is either an example from some lake or harbor or something similar.

Why is it that of all the people tht must have seen this there isn't so much as a simple picture of garbage going out to the horizon? Why is every picture extremely zoomed in and narrow, or obviously not of this specific garbage patch?

Someone somewhere must have at least taken a CELLPHONE picture ffs. How can something supposedly this astounding be so utterly undocumented?

Re:Where are the Pictures of Garbage Island? (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | about 4 years ago | (#32909894)

It is a huge mass, it's just a huge mass of very very small pieces that you can't photograph.

Re:Where are the Pictures of Garbage Island? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32909898)

It doesn't exist in the form that is being presented in articles such as this. The numbers given by North Atlantic Garbage Patch page on wikipedia are "200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre". This translates into one piece every 5 square meters. Keep in mind that in general these are broken down pieces (cm^2 scale or smaller). So, you won't find any pictures, because it probably isn't possible to take one that looks like anything. That having been said, the increased concentration of plastics is probably something that is worth being concerned about (scientifically, not in this hysterical fashion).

Re:Where are the Pictures of Garbage Island? (1)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 4 years ago | (#32909942)

As I understand it, this is an area in the Pacific Ocean where floating plastic bits accumulate due to ocean currents. In this area, the amount of plastic per unit area of ocean is far higher than in the rest of the ocean. However, the density the plastic bits is not remotely island like. You would likely not be able to see it from satellite photos. The best way to see it would be to sail there. and then to drag a fine screen behind the boat. When you pull in the screen, you would find quite a few little bits of plastic, some larger pieces, and more importantly you would find small fish that would have ingested pieces of plastic. These plastic bits would likely poison the small fish before it can grow larger.

Honestly, I find the proposal impractical, and I am not sure of its seriousness or veracity. It sounds fishy. They say there are 4 million tonnes of plastic in the area (which seems reasonable). But then they propose to make an island the size of the big island of Hawaii. No details are given to show they have actually thought seriously about this. What would keep it in place (hmmmm...the current might keep it there)? What would keep it structurally intact? What about hurricanes? Honestly, if they are going to propose something like this, they should give more evidence they have thought about it.

Its like a "plastic soup" (1)

Rooked_One (591287) | about 4 years ago | (#32910178)

I heard it described that way.... You wouldn't necessarily see it by flying overhead, but if you were in the "soup" apparently, you would have very small plastic particles all around you - I forget how deep - maybe 5 feet or so? I can't recall correctly.

You won't really see a picture because only the water in a glass jar would then look "funky." I believe the article I read about it did have samples of different parts of the "island" and you could definitely see the little particles... So like I said - think of it as a soup. No - you won't be walking on it, but yeah... you could eat it, and last I checked, it wouldn't be all that great for you.

Someone's gonna be jealous (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 4 years ago | (#32909802)

Rishi Sowa [wikipedia.org] is gonna be so jealous...

Missing the point (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32909804)

The reason people raise the alarm about this is not because they want to solve the problem via engineering. They bring this up because it gives them an excuse to bitch about consumer culture, and another sensationalist argument for people in the west to adopt their joyless granola-eating, back-to-the-earth ways.

Re:Missing the point (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | about 4 years ago | (#32910382)

They bring this up because it gives them an excuse to bitch about consumer culture, and another sensationalist argument for people in the west to adopt their joyless granola-eating, back-to-the-earth ways.

Joyless? You need to get out more.

But to those who don't get it, I hear if one keeps repeating, "Cheeseburgers love me! They do!" then it is possible to dull the mind and keep up the farce of 'living' for another day.

Problems will not be solved via engineering because those in a position to task out such projects are all psychopathic loons who will never see the light. (Note how BP's solution seems to revolve around turning the Gulf region into a corporate police state rather than fixing or cleaning anything. That's what happens when you put psychopaths in charge of engineers.) Psychopathic types are fabulously delusional and self-destructive and nobody has begun to ponder how to remove them from power. By the time we get to that point, it'll be far too late.

That's how these cyclical de-population trends work.

-FL

Chrissie Hynde (1)

macraig (621737) | about 4 years ago | (#32909810)

When Chrissie Hynde wrote about putting up parking lots and breaking up concrete, do you suppose she had PLASTIC parking lots in mind?

It Doesn't Know (1)

Jon.Laslow (809215) | about 4 years ago | (#32909816)

It's a Casio on a Plastic Beach
It's a Casio on a Plastic Beach
It's a Styrofoam deep sea landfill
It's a Styrofoam deep sea landfill


It's sort of made a computer speech
It's sort of made a computer speech
It's a Casio on a Plastic Beach
It's a Casio

oh dear (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32909824)

This has to be the stupidest story I've ever seen submitted on /.

Welcome (1)

Conchobair (1648793) | about 4 years ago | (#32909842)

Welcome to the Plastic [wikipedia.org] Beach [hulu.com]

Prophecies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32909864)

I heard that the City of Atlanta is looking to Move offshore to become a tourist spot, and an even greater Delta Hub. This could be the push Atlanta is looking for. ...Except it would be in the Pacific

We need more plastic! (3, Insightful)

kainosnous (1753770) | about 4 years ago | (#32909876)

This all sounds like a great idea, but from what I've gathered, the mass isn't really solid enough to make anything out of it. The logical conclusion is that we need more plastic.

As a general rule, I have tended to throw my plastic into landfills. I figure that, if time lasts long enough, someday they may provide us with (potentially kid-friendly and bouncy) mountains. However, seeing that science has granted us this new frontier, I suppose that I should be throwing my plastic out to sea.

Let's Go Global! (4, Funny)

Itninja (937614) | about 4 years ago | (#32909886)

...twice the size of Texas, or the size of Spain combined with France...

Or how about 1/7th the size of Brazil! Or maybe the size of 5 Ecuadors! Or the size of 1 1/10 Chads! This is fun! Who's got one?

Re:Let's Go Global! (2, Funny)

H0D_G (894033) | about 4 years ago | (#32909972)

But how many libraries of congress is that?

Re:Let's Go Global! (1)

dlgeek (1065796) | about 4 years ago | (#32910006)

But if they didn't include the Spain/France comparison, Europeans would be up in arms for giving a US-specific size metric that once again demonstrates /.'s US-centrism. :-P

Re:Let's Go Global! (1)

deniable (76198) | about 4 years ago | (#32910040)

Are those normal or hanging Chads? What if I've only got metric Vaticans?

Re:Let's Go Global! (1)

wtfmang! (1850368) | about 4 years ago | (#32910052)

I lol'd

Re:Let's Go Global! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910084)

Well it is about 1/55th of the surface area of the moon, or 96,783 football fields.

Stupid idea (2, Funny)

RT Alec (608475) | about 4 years ago | (#32909890)

Stupid... but cool as hell. There is such a fine line between stupid and clever.

Didn't somebody take a boat out there... (2, Insightful)

Soloact (805735) | about 4 years ago | (#32909892)

... to where this supposed "dump" was located, and only found small pieces of broken-down plastics, and no massive dump like the article indicates? Seems there was a documentary done about this "dump" being an exaggeration, and over-hyped in the news.

if you believe this... (1)

mythar (1085839) | about 4 years ago | (#32909932)

i have some beachfront properties on the rings of saturn i'd like to sell you.

Guatemala Sink hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32909950)

They have a Guatemala Sink hole that needs to be filled with stuff. There is stuff.

Nothing Bizarre About It (1)

jomama717 (779243) | about 4 years ago | (#32909968)

What is so bizarre? We manufacture plastic, make products out of it and carelessly throw the used products into the ocean where they disintegrate into little bits that accumulate over time. Sad and disgusting, but not bizarre.

And don't get me started on "slip up"...

It's simple really. (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#32909970)

No fresh water, no agriculture, no habitation.

Tiny Bits of Plastic entering the Food Chain (5, Informative)

deboli (199358) | about 4 years ago | (#32909996)

Most of the flotsam there consists of small particles that are distributed in the first 10m of the water column. What would need to be done is to filter it out and bind it similar to how pebbles are bound with cement to create concrete to create large enough bits that can be combined into an island.

Eventually we (the world community) will have to clear this patch as the plastics now enter the food chain and threaten to poison us all. Already there are areas in the ocean where plastic is more prevalent than krill and plastic is being ingested by marine animals, accumulating in higher organisms and ultimately in us too.

Collecting plastic there would be a nice occupation for all those fishermen that have been made redundant due to overfishing and the necessities to conserve fish stocks. Get them to fish plastic instead and pay them for the trash catch they return.

Two articles on that matter, a bit lengthy but worth your time:
http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/270 [orionmagazine.org]
http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Ocean/Moore-Trashed-PacificNov03.htm [mindfully.org]

Nobody has convered the most important question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910004)

Under whose sovereignity is the new island going to be under? Do we really want the Netherlands to have it?

Anyone else though about how rich the Dutch are going to be if global warming keeps up and Greenland thaws out?

Maybe it's just me but these questions seem more important!

Plastic Beach (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910042)

I wonder if we'll find murdoc living there with noodle and the rest of the gang

Get off my lawn. (1, Interesting)

adolf (21054) | about 4 years ago | (#32910064)

Maybe I'm old (I do have a birthday coming up this weekend), but: Back from when I was a kid, I remember a few things about the environment:

1. First, at a young age, it was totally appropriate to throw garbage out of the car window.

2. It then became less appropriate as volunteers started making a lot of press about cleaning up litter on roadways, which (presumably) had previously been left to be mowed into tiny pieces and otherwise never degraded (plastics last forever, don't you know?).

3. Six-packs of cans were still common back then. Pictures of fish and animals stuck inside of six-pack plastic rings [google.com] became common in print media and textbooks, along with captions about how plastics last forever and will soon ruin everything.

4. Sometime around this point, McDonald's decides, "for the environment," to stop packaging their sandwiches in polystyrene containers. (I suspect it had more to do with their trash bill, since the replacement paper-based packaging compressed far more easily, but I digress.)

5. Six-pack plastic universally turns UV-degradable. Other single-use plastics soon followed. Disposable glass bottles disappeared. Pull-tab cans disappeared.

6. Earth Day came back from hiatus.

7. Folks stopped littering, for the most part, which was plainly evident from the relative lack of trash stuck to fences along the side of the road compared to a few years prior.

8. ??? (there's a gap in my memory about environmentalist plastic concerns which lasts for a decade or so, until:)

9. In 2010, degraded plastics (see part 5) are bad, because fish eat them.

So. I'd like to ask anyone with an answer to put forward, simply:

Assume that we use plastic, and that some small percentage (no matter how much overall mass that is) will end up somewhere dangerous. Which is best/least bad: Plastics that don't degrade, or plastics that do degrade?

I don't think we get to have both.

Re:Get off my lawn. (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 4 years ago | (#32910268)

I'm not a plastics engineer, but if they could make them to degrade in UV, can't they just make them degrade at a significantly HIGHER amount of UV exposure? This way you get the benefits of degradation, but keep it from doing so while it is hurting Nemo.

Basic Math Failure?? (2, Insightful)

Somegeek (624100) | about 4 years ago | (#32910092)

They are saying that there are 4 million tons of plastic out there, and they want to build a 10,000 square km island.

Assume a basic building unit of a plastic floating barrel and a square plastic platform to sit on top of it. Assume that 40kg of plastic are used in the barrel/platform and it will provide all of the necessary flotation for a square meter chunk of island.

In the above scenario, 4 million tons of plastic gets you one hundred million barrel/platform units, and therefore a surface area of one hundred million square meters. That means an island that is TEN square km. Not really enough land to make self sufficient home complete with farmland for half a million people.

What are they going to build the other 9,990 square km of floating island out of?

Re:Basic Math Failure?? (1)

zondag (1114149) | about 4 years ago | (#32910174)

They're not saying they will build the island from the plastic. They saying they'll build the island where the plastic is.

Re:Basic Math Failure?? (1)

Somegeek (624100) | about 4 years ago | (#32910232)

They're not saying they will build the island from the plastic. They saying they'll build the island where the plastic is.

Actually they are saying that they will build it from plastic that they recycle from the ocean.

from their website, www.recycledisland.com:

On this location a new floating island will be made of all the recycled material found in the Ocean. This recycled island will be in the heart of the Oceans current, the North Pacific Gyre. In between the island Hawaii and San Francisco.

Starting point is to make Recycled island a similar size as (the main island of) Hawaii. This size is approximately 10,000 Km2. Of course the size depends on the amount of plastic that we can obtain and recycle from the ocean.

Fresh Water? (0)

Great Big Bird (1751616) | about 4 years ago | (#32910114)

Assuming they could do everything the article says, which in itself is very unlikely... Where are they going to get the fresh water from that we need to survive?

Small Island! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910142)

4 million tons is only around 11 Empire State Buildings.

Coke heads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32910148)

Great, an island of plastic =( Keep on drinking your Coke, smart guys..

South Pacific Gyre (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 4 years ago | (#32910208)

^^Read That^^ While reading TFS I was itching to say that amidst the laughing I did after reading the acronym "WHIM" and hitting what some people would call crucial points of this whim of insanity.

Ever get the feeling that. . . (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | about 4 years ago | (#32910392)

More and more frequently, the news reads like segments from a Neil Stephenson novel. One of his earlier ones.

-FL

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