Humans have slowly turned the Earth’s oceans into giant garbage dumps. Each year, up to 12 million metric tons of plastic make their way into the world’s oceans, killing nearly 100 million marine animals. Scientists estimate that plastic would outweigh all the fish in oceans by 2050.
The situation calls for drastic measures and novel approaches, and nothing could be more unique than the concept of a self-sustaining massive floating continent with the power to recycle plastic.
Dubbed The 8th Continent, the design won the 2020 Grand Prix Award for Architecture and Innovation of the Sea for offering a unique solution to the environmental crisis.
The science and other stuff to know
The station concept was designed by Lenka Petráková, senior designer at Zaha Hadid Architects in London. In an interview with STIR, Lenka said she wanted to design a project that could help wildlife. So she did.
The station is designed as a gigantic but gorgeous flower with five main parts. There’s The Barrier, which will collect waste and harvest tidal energy; The Collector, which sorts the waste, biodegrades it, and stores it; The Research and Education Centre; Greenhouses where plants are grown and water is desalinated; and the Living Quarters.
Each of the station’s functions is focused on reducing oceanic waste, helping scientists study tidal behaviors, and helping restore balance in the marine environment. The structure would generate its own energy with the help of the Barrier, which would harness tidal energy to power turbines. It would also have solar panels to power the greenhouses for the desalination of wastewater and its reuse for cultivation.
A concept as forward-looking as The 8th Continent offers much more than a modern trash collection unit for the ocean. It not only envisions the collection of trash, but also processing that turns harmful plastics into biodegradable waste that offers little risk to the environment. What’s more, it does so by harnessing the energy available in nature, making the entire process highly sustainable and pollution free.
Additionally, Lenka told STIR that the station could become an important research facility for marine biologists and chemical engineers, who could study the effects of cleaning on oceans and marine life in real-time.
She believed it could also become a learning facility for chemical engineers and chemists, who could research the “best way to biodegrade the plastic”.
While it would take some time before an ambitious project like a massive floating continent attracts a willing investor, the radical design concepts introduced in the concept could provide key insights for addressing the ocean’s pollution.
The technology could be scaled down to create smaller prototypes to measure efficacy. The results could then be gauged to see if they merit a larger investment. If successful, the technology will not only help us restore the natural order of things in the world’s oceans but also inspire others to think of other sustainable ways to address many of the environmental problems faced by the planet today.