Recycled Plastic Islands: A New Concept of Urban Spaces?

Photo by My Modern Met

Photo by My Modern Met

Sea Going Green recently had the pleasure to interview Iris Overeem from the Recycled Island Foundation, a non-profit based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands to discuss their efforts to solve the issue of plastic pollution!

Their “plastic traps” catch floating plastic and upcycle it to close the loop by making it into a floating island structure, which can also function as an urban space for biodiversity and also city dwellers!

Check out this week’s blog to find out more about what inspired this project, how it works and its ambitions to become a new urban solution!

What is the Recycled Island Foundation, where are you based and what inspired you to start this foundation?

The Recycled Island Foundation (RIF) is a young organization that was brought to life to find an active approach to the worldwide plastic pollution in open waters. RIF aims at the retrieval of debris in rivers and river mouths, sustainable re-use of plastics, organizing cleanups, creating awareness and education.

The Recycled Island Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, with a global purpose. RIF has found an active approach in retrieving marine litter with litter traps.

RIF has proven to be successful in the effective capturing of plastic waste in Rotterdam, Ambon and Brussels and in launching a ‘Recycled Park’ in Rotterdam.

Ramon Knoester founded the RIF 5 years ago, because Plastic Waste is a global problem that undermines the stability of natural ecosystems. Via rivers a subsequent part of plastic litter enters our seas and oceans, where it becomes part of the so-called plastic soup.

How did you come up with the floating park concept?

The majority of plastic litter in our seas comes from the rivers. Cities, industrial and recreational areas are situated along waterways and produce waste and debris that flow towards the sea. The New Meuse is a strategic European waterway and it carries high quantities of polluting plastic from the land to the sea.

Our approach is a closed circle. Thanks to our Traps  (made from recycled plastic too) we retrieve plastics produced and used elsewhere, we sort, recycle and we add new value to it. We design and follow the production and distribution phase to start the circle again and turn plastic litter into building material.

The floating park is our first example of Upcycling, we transformed useless or unwanted materials into new products of better quality.


What is the “litter trap” and how does it work?

Recycled plastic is used to build our Litter Traps which is an innovative system to catch plastic waste in rivers.

The Litter traps catch the plastic litter by using the existing stream of the river and keep the plastics inside when the direction of the stream changes. When the water current flows towards the litter trap, the floating plastic waste is captured into the trap. The floating arms of the litter trap guide the plastics inside the platform. Litter is trapped at the end of the platform. Fish and other animals can still easily escape through the openings.

If the current flows in the opposite direction, the waste won’t drift away thanks to an innovative door-shaped structure  inside the litter trap.


What can these new green environments add to a city and its surroundings?

Green areas are shrinking due to the expansion of cities, industrial and agricultural lands. This results in an alarmingly fast decline of biodiversity, habitats and vegetation. The bottom of our blocks is not sealed and it allows the roots of the pants to grow in the water. Thanks to the plants’ filtering ability, water and air are purified.

Recycled Park is made of different hexagonal shaped blocks, each with various characteristics, aimed at having the maximum beneficial impact on the environment. Different plants allow users to enjoy the view and to have a break surrounded by nature.

On the blocks, vegetations grow, birds, fish and micro-organisms can find food and breeding ground. Through the park runs a small canal about half a meter deep; small fish and birds find here shelter and the  space to grow before entering the deeper waters.

What is the future of this project? Do you plan to expand to other cities in The Netherlands and eventually abroad?

We have ambitions to introduce our approach in more rivers and harbours worldwide. We now have litter traps in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Brussels (Belgium) and Ambon (Indonesia). We are currently looking for collaborations so we can build and place two new litter traps in 2019. One in Europe and one overseas.