WHIM architecture

Sustainable floating islands made of recycled plastic

Posted on 03 June 2016.

In Rotterdam, the Recycled Park project wants to collect and recycle plastic trash from the Nieuwe Maas river. The endgame? Sustainable floating parks.

A machine – known as the "plastic fisherman" - could extract as much as 100 tonnes of plastic waste per year by catching it before it flows out into the North Sea.

Collecting garbage from the Nieuwe Maas river running through Rotterdam before it reaches the North Sea and recycling it to make new materials for building sustainable floating islands is the unusual challenge taken on by the Recycled Park project now being tested.

Supported by Rotterdam city council, the South Holland province and the Netherlands government, the Dutch architectural firm WHIM – in association with the Recycled Island Foundation – has embarked on an incredible project. Named the Recycled Park, it aims to collect and turn plastic waste into modular blocks 2 meters long that, once assembled, can be used to construct proper floating islands.

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. Recycled Park's objective is to enhance the river and create new modular cityscapes with recycled materials.

Rotterdam, a port city with an industrial heart

The second largest city in the Netherlands with an impressive port infrastructure, Rotterdam is crossed by the Nieuwe Maas (New Meuse) which winds for nearly 24 km across the country and every year carries large amounts of plastic rubbish to the North Sea. The industrial city is therefore the best point from which to collect this plastic, 98% floats on the surface, which means it has a high potential for recycling.

Already operating in the port, a special collection machine, the "Plastic Visser", separates and shreds the plastic waste. Once recycled, it will be turned into building blocks that will be assembled like a puzzle to create artificial banks and platforms, islands of greenery and parks. In the open air, the porous surface of the blocks will allow an ecosystem to develop where plants, mosses and small plants can grow. Some trees will be planted to encourage birds.

As for the submerged part of the platform, it would offer a support for algae and marine species and so provide a food supply for fish. In short, a real biotope - born from garbage!

Eventually, the Recycled Park could accommodate sports tracks, cultural spaces, playgrounds and promenades - adding green space to the city and helping improve biodiversity. It’s an idea that confirms Rotterdam’s position as leader in sustainable urban development matters.