“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination, and brings eternal joy to the soul.” – Robert Wyland
The oceans cover more than two-thirds of the surface of this ball we live on, our first home, the earth. Save it, because we don’t have anywhere else to go. Oceans produce about half of the oxygen that we breathe. It is home to some of the biggest creatures that mother nature has so carefully created. There are 8.7 million species on earth, but human beings somehow tend to think that they are the only ones that own the planet. Only humans are creating waste that mother nature cannot digest.
Overproduction and under-consumption are the two main reasons for Plastic waste generation. In the last century, about 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced, out of which only 9% got recycled. The rest of it is either discarded using various methods like landfills, incineration, etc.
or by dumping into the oceans. Plastic, being a non-biodegradable material, wrecks the environment in multiple ways. It harms the soil and releases harmful gases into the environment. Once the plastic is dumped into the ocean, it can take thousands of years to degrade.
Oceanic pollution is one of the major concerns that our world is facing today. It has an inimical effect on marine life, and millions of fishes and other marine animals die because of the consumption or ingestion of plastic waste. It is being predicted that by 2050, the plastic waste in the ocean will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish if the scenario continues to be the same.
So the question that needs to be raised is, how can we as architects and designers, contribute towards the reduction of this oceanic debris. Plastic has great potential, yet the average use span of a plastic item is not more than 12 minutes! And when this element is disposed of, it takes centuries to decompose. This property of plastic could be used to our advantage. We can create structures, or certain elements to be used in a structure, by the use of recycled plastic waste from the ocean. These elements would be durable, aesthetic, and long-lasting.
There are various ways in which this oceanic plastic waste can be used in architecture like in facade designing, as a material for doors and windows, roof designing, etc. Here are some examples which depict the various ways in which recycled plastic waste is being used around the world.
- The plastic waste can be converted into tiles that resemble the look of a traditional terrazzo tile, by using tiny pieces of colorful plastic. These tiles were used in the third design of architects Erik Goksøyr and Emily-Claire Goksøyr’s Plastic Island concept. A Delhi-based company has also developed a technique to convert plastic waste into eco-friendly Tiles. These tiles are lightweight, waterproof, and aesthetic. They can be used for wall claddings, roofing, etc.
- In the Canadian city of Halifax, an initiative of converting plastic waste into a substitute for wood is being followed. This synthetic wood can be nailed, glued, etc. just like traditional timber. This material is converted into the form of planks, blocks, etc. They have used this material in the art of furniture-making as well.
- Another study conducted in Sweden shows that plastic waste can undergo compression and deform as a result. This provides flexibility in the use of recycled plastic waste in terms of texture. It can be converted into a smooth matt material, or with a glossy finish, or it can be converted into a rough or jagged textured material. This recycled plastic can be in the form of roofing sheets, facade designs, etc.
- A US-based company called ByFusion has identified this issue and came up with a technology to convert plastic waste from the oceans into construction blocks. The method includes a module that compresses the collected plastic debris into customized blocks of various sizes, shapes, and densities. The company decided to name their recycled plastic building block as RePlast. These blocks have been used in the construction of walls and road barriers. The energy required for this technology is extremely low, making it a sustainable and eco-friendly material. Due to the nature of the unsorted oceanic plastic waste, the blocks have a unique colorful look as well.
- Another good way of using plastic waste from the ocean is to recycle waste and use it in the construction of roads. These roads are known as Plasphalt roads, as opposed to the conventional asphalt roads. The plastic waste can be used as a replacement to the aggregate in the asphalt mix. Plasphalt roads are more durable and strong compared to the traditional asphalt roads.
In conclusion, there is an imperative need to expand the scope of recycling techniques and the use of plastic waste that is dumped into the ocean every second throughout the world. Nature is self-healing, as long as it is not meddled with.
“If you think the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money.”