Plastic Islands Anchored Into Gulf: Will They Restore Louisiana Coast?

In an attempt to restore wetlands off the Louisiana coast, 187 "floating islands," made of recycled PET plastic bottles and filled with native grasses, are being placed in in shallow waters. 

The hope is the grasses will take root and build an offshore reef of new wetlands to rebuild the barrier that protects the region from hurricans and flooding. Once the grasses root, they would form an anchor, which would then begin trapping sediment from the flowing water to form land.  

America’s Wetland Foundation in Louisiana is teaming with other conservation organizations and oil company Shell in the initiative, which aims to replace the football-size piece of land that’s lost every hour there because of long-term poor planning. 

It’s important to "stimulate inventive ideas by small entrepreneurs" to see if restoration efforts can be effective in small, targeted projects like this one," Val Marmillion, managing director of America’s Wetlands told Waste & Recycling News.

"People are migrating northward," he says. It doesn’t take a storm for tides to rise." The region is living in a disaster economy – it has been so damaged. We´ve got our hands full as far as raising public awareness and its impact nationally."

Baton Rouge-based Martin Ecosystems came up with the idea for the islands, which were placed in the water by children and members of local Indian tribes. They constructed 5-foot-by-8-foot pallets of recycled PET that have a Brillo pad-like texture, reports Waste & Recycling News.

Two saltwater grasses are planted into holes and held in peat. A stainless steel cable is driven into the soil 15-18 feet deep until it reaches clay. It will take about a year for the grasses to take root in the 3-foot water. 

The Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans installed the same islands successfully two years ago.

The levee system on the Mississippi River has been starving the coast of the sediment in needs to keep wetlands in place.  Last month, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, created by President Obama after the BP oil spill, issued its strategy for reversing the decline of the region’s ecosystem. "The report attempts to begin reversing 80 years of mismanagement," says Garret Graves, Task Force vice-chair.

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