Name: Grace Cheng
Nationality: Taiwan / USA
Name: Yang Yi
-HONOURABLE MENTION of Non Architecture Award Competition | Category: Aspatial
Of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced globally every year, more than eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up in oceans. One of the most commonly adopted solutions to this issue is ocean cleanups where plastic is brought on shore for recycling. Yet, not only is new plastic produced at a faster rate than it is recycled, but also only a small fraction of used plastic can be recycled.
Indeed, these plastic polymers in the ocean perpetuate the practice of cradle-to-grave: where a material life cycle is linear, not circular. The challenge is to think beyond recycling, and envision plastic waste as an untapped carbon resource.
The Carbon Cruise ties together emergent concepts and technologies in sustainable agriculture, aquaculture, and plastic decomposition as a response to this global warming issue. While ocean plastic is commonly thought to be waste with no value, the Carbon Cruise utilizes untapped carbon as resources for food systems. The challenge with extracting the carbon inside plastic is the long decomposition process. Ideonella sakaiensis is a newly identified bacterium that is capable of breaking down plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as its energy source. When the bacterium consumes PET with its degrading enzyme PETase, carbon is released into the air. The Carbon Cruise stores the released carbon in the plastic decomposition pods, then the carbon-rich air is fed to the vertical farm directly above. Instead of hauling the ocean plastic waste on shore, the Carbon Cruise breaks down plastic on site and turns waste into sustenance for the crops.
- Vertical farm
Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in vertical layers to optimize controlled plant growth while minimizing consumption in water and arable land. On the Carbon Cruise, vertical planter columns use drip irrigation to recycle collected ocean water, soilless-growth medium to build crop resiliency, and carbon recycling to feed crops.
- PET decomposition pod
The plastic decomposition pods on the middle level are supported by metal frames which make up the Cruise’s primary structure. Plastic waste is dumped inside through an opening at the top of each pod. The Cruise’s crescent shape allows for waste to be captured in the middle, through five openings. Using ocean’s kinetic energy and the cruise’s momentum, plastic waste is fed into the body of the cruise passively.
- Cistern for polyculture farming
As ocean water enters the cruise along with the plastic waste, it is stored at the bottom of the cruise for the polyculture farming system. A polyculture farming system produces high yields of shellfish and seaweed with a small footprint. Most importantly, a polyculture farming system acts as a carbon and nitrogen sink, drawing excess carbon out of the ocean water through carbon sequestration which then helps to lower the temperature of the epiplectic zone.
We believe that a non-architectural project is meaningful when it arises contemporary questions about what has to be done in our society. It is meant to be a tool to let us dream about a better life. The project tries to deal with a new life of the plastic and shows the necessity of a strong interaction between infrastructure and technology, environment and biology, and much more.
The images are lacking somehow in visual qualities but are clear enough to understand the idea of the proposal. Regardless some naïve approach to structure and to the design of the vertical farm, the proposal is a good example of an ambition that shows a need to think beyond economy and ego of nations. The huge amount of ocean there is not ours, but it’s time to think about it, isn’t it ?