Courtesy of Recycled Island Foundation

The 1,500-square-foot green space is a refuge for plants, animals, and people.

By Marisa Spyker

When it comes to the amount of plastic in our oceans, unfortunately, there’s more than enough to go around. Collecting it is a big part of the solution—as Dutch inventor Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup array is currently doing—but another big part is figuring out how to repurpose all that flotsam once it’s retrieved. To that end, companies big and small have ideas, from switching to recycled plastic packaging to fashioning yoga mats and athletic shoes from the eco-friendly material.

Now, an organization in the Netherlands has opened the world’s first floating park—complete with reading benches, greenery, and wildlife—crafted entirely from trash retrieved from the waters around it. The Recycled Island Foundation opened the park in Rotterdam Harbour after more than a year of collecting garbage that would’ve otherwise ended up in the North Sea. Three custom-made litter traps did the job using a passive system that allowed trash from the river to flow through it.

Once the trash was collected, it was broken down and refashioned into hexagonal building blocks (floating platforms), which were then linked within the harbour and anchored to the seabed. Together, the recycled plastic pieces form a 1,500-square-foot park, with two hexagonal structures designed for human use and the rest acting as floating garden beds.

According to the website, a major function of the park is to boost ecology in the harbor by planting different types of vegetation that attract aquatic life from birds to insects and snails. (Even the undersides of the platforms are designed to encourage plant growth underwater.)

But another function, the company says, is to illustrate yet another way recycled plastics are valuable materials that can transform into products that help, rather than hurt, the environment. As founder and architect Ramon Knoester told U.K.-based site Mpora, “Hopefully one day we’ll reach the point where people will say ‘okay we’d like to have more floating parks and more floating structures, so we should be more careful with our plastic waste.’”

Related: Meet Our 2017 Ocean Heroes: