Honglin Li, a United States-based architect, recently won an Honorable Mention in the 2019 eVolo Skyscraper competition for his design named Filtration – a floating skyscraper that converts waste into energy in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. The amount of waste in this mass is increasing every day, as much of it is not biodegradable. As most plastics simply keep breaking into smaller pieces, such floating garbage patches consist almost entirely of microplastics, mixed with larger bits, such as shoes and fishing tackle.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a layer of rubbish 30 metres thick
Spanning from the west coast of North America to Japan, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean, twice the size of Texas and three times the size of California. The layer of rubbish is said to be at least 30 metres thick on average.
“The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not the only vortex – it’s just the biggest,” says Li. “The Atlantic and Indian Oceans both have trash vortexes. Even shipping routes in smaller bodies of water, such as the North Sea, are developing garbage patches,” he adds.
Floating structure uses gravity to sort marine waste
The skyscraper – a highly modularised prefabricated waste-management and waste-to-energy power plant megastructure – features many water treatment plants and material recovery facilities to recycle the continent of floating garbage. Conventional material recovery facilities primarily depend on gravity, by using multiple conveyors to raise the garbage mainstream several times in order to sort different items.
Li’s floating skyscraper utilises seawater to pump the garbage up to the highest location of the structure. The water is then filtered and waste materials are recycled from the top to the bottom of the building. Non-recycled material, as well as recycled material, will later be removed from the skyscraper by a waste collection team. The seawater is returned to the ocean, clean and filtered from debris.
Image credit: Honglin Li
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