Become a citizen of the Trash Isles to protect our oceans
A sassy campaign wants plastic trash recognized as an actual country, in hopes of getting official attention.
If you've ever had the urge to seek citizenship to another country, now is your chance -- although you might not be able to visit it, exactly. British media group LADbible has launched a campaign to have the 'Trash Isles' recognized by the United Nations as the world's 196th country. The Trash Isles is exactly what its name describes -- a heap of plastic waste the size of France that's expanding rapidly in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Plastic waste, as we've written many times on TreeHugger, is an environmental catastrophe for the planet. Every year, eight million tons of plastic are dumped in waterways and oceans, entangling marine wildlife and breaking down into tiny pieces that are ingested by animals and often eaten by humans. There are concerns about the impact on the human body: "One study carried out in the US found that 93 percent of Americans over the age of six tested positive for BPA (a [hormone-disrupting] chemical found in plastic)."
While the Trash Isles campaign sounds silly and gimmicky, it does serve a purpose:
"What better way is there to get world leaders to take notice of a problem than to stick it in front of their faces? Literally so - our application has to be read by all members of the UN Council."
Nation status would also offer protection under the UN Environmental Charters, which state:
"All members shall co-operate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem."
This means that, by becoming a country, other countries would be obliged to clean up the Trash Isles.
There are four criteria for becoming an actual country. These are: (1) a defined territory, (2) a government, (3) capability of interacting with other states, and (4) a population. The LADBible campaign says it meets all of these requirements, although how is not exactly clear.
The defined territory requirement is tricky, since scientists have been saying there's no such thing as a single Great Pacific Garbage Patch; rather, plastic waste is diffused throughout all ocean waters (a significantly more terrifying prospect) and there are numerous trash vortexes in waterways. A elected government, presumably, would be formed by volunteers, and the capability of interacting with other states would come from the population, which LADbible is currently trying to rally through an online petition. So far, nearly 120,000 people have signed the petition with a goal of 150,000.
The campaign has some high-profile supporters, including Al Gore, who has been named the country's first honorary citizen, and British Olympic distance runner Mo Farah.
LADbible's head of marketing, Stephen Mai, says the Trash Isles will have everything a real country needs, from an official flag and currency called 'debris' to passports made of recycled materials, a national anthem, and (of course) a national football team.)
"Come on, fellow Trash Isles countrymen. Let’s put down the plastic, get off our arses and pull together to ensure the world’s first country made of Trash, is its last."
It's an amusing idea and it will be intriguing to see how the UN responds -- although I can't help but wonder how the Environmental Charters could possibly work for the Trash Isles if they've been unsuccessful at controlling pollution at its source.
Sign the petition here asking the UN to recognize the Trash Isles as an actual country.