My article, Plastic Beach, in the January/February 2011 issue of Frontline has prompted plenty of feedback, most of it sheer exasperation at humanity’s ongoing destruction of the planet’s most pristine and beautiful ecosystems. However, it seems my pessimism for the future of our oceans could be misplaced.

An ambitious new idea has been put forward by WHIM Architects to gather up all the plastic waste floating in various regions of the world’s oceans and bind it together to create habitable islands. Whilst the project is still in its research phase, Dutch architect Ramon Knoester, who came up with the idea as he was flying over the ocean reading an article on plastic waste, believes it is feasible. The major hurdle is finding a mechanism to collect all the plastic flotsam but Knoester thinks it may be possible to attract plastic using an electrostatic charge, which would be harmless to ocean species. The plastic would then be recycled on a factory ship into plastic building blocks from which the islands could be constructed.

Using solar and wave power, seaweed cultivation, plastic housing and municipal buildings and compost toilets from which to “build fertility on the islands,” Knoester believes this is the best way to deal with the huge problems of the plastic gyres in the world’s seas. In the North Pacific Gyre alone, it is estimated there is 100 million tons of plastic flotsam.

Lorna Howarth is Development Director at Artists Project Earth.