Can a Floating Island of Trash Become a Country?

There is a floating island of trash in the North Pacific as large as the country of France.

I'd say "let that sink in," but it floats. It's a floating island of plastic debris — bottles, trash bags, six-pack rings, food packaging, laundry baskets, children's toys — that have just sort of amassed together as the world's plastic garbage has floated out to sea and gotten caught up in the ocean's currents, called gyres.

Think of it: a floating island of trash as big as the largest country in Western Europe. France is 551,695 square kilometers (213,010 square miles), and there is now a plastic land mass that big floating in the northern Pacific Ocean.

It has also surrendered to China.

This was too much for a few environmental activists, so they banded together and petitioned the United Nations to recognize the island as an actual country. They're calling it The Trash Isles, which wouldn't have been my first choice.

I might have gone with Trashistan. Or Garbagia. Or Madatrashcan. But I wasn't consulted. No one ever asks me about these things.

The Trash Isles campaign was created by a group of organizations and designers, including the Plastic Oceans Foundation and publisher LADBible, who wanted to draw attention to the environmental blight. They've designed a flag, created currency, and have written a letter to the United Nations requesting that The Trash Isles be recognized as a nation state.

Their hope is that if The Trash Isles are recognized as a nation, other nations — nations whose filthy rotten garbage comprises the mountains and shores of Trash Isle — will be required to clean up the floating plastic and dispose of it properly.

They've even given out honorary citizenships to notable environmentalists. Former Vice President Al Gore has been named the first citizen, with others soon to follow. It's not "I won a Nobel Prize" cool, but it's still something worth telling your family about.

Al Gore: Hey Tipper, guess what happened to me today.

Tipper Gore: You got nominated for another Nobel Prize?

Al: Nope.

Tipper: Elizabeth Warren wants you to be her running mate?

Al: No.

Tipper: I give up.

Al: I was named the first ever citizen of a floating country made entirely out of garbage.

Tipper: Oh! Well, that's. . . I mean, it's. . . Are you sure Elizabeth Warren didn't call you?

Just imagine! You join this brand new country, eager to pioneer a new way of life, and already your first citizen has been given one of the highest honors in the world. If nothing else, it should inspire greatness in you and your fellow Trash Islanders. Or make you feel like, well, garbage.

"Trash Islanders" is the demonym for citizens of The Trash Isles. I mean, it's no "Hoosiers," but it certainly does paint a picture. Other notable Trash Islanders include Dame Judi Dench and Olympic athlete Mo Farah. You can also become a citizen just by signing their petition on Change.org. I did it while I was researching this column.

My goal was to be the flag bearer for The Trash Isles in the Olympic games, but with Mo Farah as a citizen, I somehow think my dream will be thwarted. Mostly because he's a world class long distance runner, and I don't like running across the street.

Still, it doesn't matter since citizenship on The Trash Isles is mostly symbolic. You wouldn't want to actually live there, since it is just a floating mountain of trash. Besides, once the hipsters start moving in with their little avocado toast cafes, rent will go through the roof, and normal people will have to live further inland just to make ends meet.

There is also an official currency called the "Debris," and it comes in denominations of 100, 50, and 20. Each bill features different images of ocean-dependent wildlife — sea turtles, whales, seals, and octopi — being harmed by plastic floating garbage. However, I didn't see any way to get ahold of Debris. Can you buy Debris bills? Is there an official exchange rate? How many Debris are there to a dollar? And do I have to use cash when I'm visiting The Trash Isles, or do they take plastic?

Oops, sorry.

The Trash Isles even has its own flag, which consists of a white sky, blue water, and a green plastic bottle. It's a simple design, but one that's filled with symbolism and meaning for the world's newest country.

While most of the work has been done creating this brand new land, I want to do my part and write its new national anthem. Tell me what you think. (Sung to the tune of "America the Beautiful.")

"O poisonous, befouled skies,
Contaminated rain
For plastic mountains majesty
And pockets of methane
Oh Isles of Trash, oh Isles of Trash
Of polyethylene
And fill thy straits with plastic plates
All made from melamine."




Illustrations used with permission of LADBible Group


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