There’s a country-sized problem in the north Pacific Ocean: a patch of trash has grown to the size of France. So the environmental charity Plastic Oceans Foundation has paired up with the news and entertainment publication LadBible to campaign for it to be recognized as an official country.
The campaign claims that, under Article 1 of the 1993 Montevideo Convention on the rights and duties of states, a country must be able to: define a territory, form a government, interact with other states, and have a permanent population. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has borders (sort of), and it’s easy to create a government and institutions for interacting with others.
Now with former US vice president Al Gore signing up as the country’s first citizen and more than 100,000 signing the petition to be granted citizenship, the campaign has submitted its application earlier this month to the United Nations to recognize the Trash Isles as the world’s 196th country.
The project is the brainchild of advertising professionals Michael Hughes and Dalatando Almeida, according to AdWeek. Designer Mario Kerkstra helped create a flag, a passport, currency (called debris), and stamps.
The Trash Isles is being claimed as a country under the declarative theory of statehood, which says that the political existence of a state is independent of recognition by others. (Under this definition, for instance, the Republic of China, or Taiwan, would be considered a state; it’s not clear if that’s enough to legally constitute a state under international law.)
And, yet, even if the Trash Isles fails at its attempt, it would go a long way to spotlighting the growing problem. Ocean plastic isn’t just harming animals, it’s also ending up as microparticles in fish and other foodstuffs consumed by humans. By 2050, plastic in the oceans is set to outweigh all fish. Alongside the garbage patch in the north Pacific, in July researchers found another patch forming in the south Pacific.
As the LadBible puts it: “If you think any of this is ridiculous, then please consider the idea that there’s an area cumulatively the size of France made up entirely of waste plastic in the sea.”