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Environmentalists Proclaim Great Pacific Garbage Patch a Country, Design National Identity

Can an island of garbage become a nation? The founders of “Trash Isles” are working to realize their vision and raise awareness about this environmental scourge.

Passport for Trash Isles, designed by Mario Kerkstra and illustrated by Jurgen Willbarth (all images courtesy Trash Isles)

It’s a mass of garbage roughly as large as France that floats in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, formed over years as ocean currents gather plastics and other debris from around the world in one spot. And now, environmentalists have launched a creative campaign to have The Great Pacific Garbage Patch recognized as an official country as a means to get it cleaned up.

On World Oceans Day, the Plastic Oceans Foundation and British entertainment website LADbible submitted an application for nationhood to the United Nations, claiming that world leaders would have to cooperate to eradicate the floating pollution as per the UN’s environmental charters. As their proposal is still under consideration, the team is creating everything an official country needs, from a currency and passport to a flag and stamps. All designed products illustrate grim scenes of environmental degradation and proudly bear the name of the proposed nation: The Trash Isles.

Flag of Trash Isles, designed by Mario Kerkstra

This all hinges on an idealistic reading of one of the organization’s principles of sustainable development, which declares that “states shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect, and restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem.” An array of challenges, in reality, makes this difficult to implement, but people seem eager to attempt it with Trash Isles: LADBible has launched a change.org petition to persuade UN Secretary General António Guterres to approve the application for nationhood, and it has received over 127,000 signatories. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it claims, currently meets all criteria to become a country, including defined borders as well as a government.

Those who add their signatures are also signing up to be citizens, although it’s unclear what kinds of duties a citizen of the Trash Isles will have (Hyperallergic’s requests for clarification went unanswered). The first citizen, fittingly, was former US Vice President Al Gore, who has been a staunch environmental activist for decades. In a video recording his “acceptance speech,” he argues for the need to develop more biodegradable materials, to impose a carbon tax, and to implement better laws concerning recycling.

 

Passport for Trash Isles designed by Mario Kerkstra and illustrated by Jurgen Willbarth

The original idea for Trash Isles arrived from advertising creative team Michael Hughes and Dalatando Almeida, who work as Dal & Mike. The pair had approached LADbible to reach a larger audience and expand the campaign through its editorial content. LADbible’s creative team also worked with illustrator Mario Kerkstra to shape Trash Isles’ identity. They came up with a flag that features a bobbing plastic water bottle; a passport with sea creatures tangled in rope; and bank notes that comprise the “Debris” currency, whose different denominations depict various visions of marine life ruined by pollution.

We knew that even though the Trash patch covers an area the size of a country it is easy for world leaders to ignore it,” Dal & Mike said in a statement. “The saying, ‘Out of sight, Out of mind’ could not be more applicable than with this issue. We wanted to come up with a way to ensure world leaders can’t ignore it anymore — a way to stick it under their noses, literally.”

Right now, attaining statehood for Trash Isles seems but an ambitious and distant dream, but the project takes an engaging and personal approach to talk about oceanic pollution and climate change. It is, at least, a novel way to spread awareness about an issue that will affect all future generations, regardless of geographic borders.

Illustration of Trash Isles by Mario Kerkstra and LADbible’s in-house creative team
Trash Isles currency designed by Mario Kerkstra
Passport for Trash Isles, designed by Mario Kerkstra and illustrated by Jurgen Willbarth
Application to the United Nations to recognize The Trash Isles as an official country
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