Architect-led Pacific Garbage Screening project launches first tests

Architect Marcella Hansch's Pacific Garbage Screening project announces first waste collecting boat tests in a river in Slovakia, in preparation for its launch of a specially designed platform system to reduce plastic contamination in waters

Detailed model of the Pacific garbage screening project overview
(Image credit: TBC)

When Marcella Hansch launched the Pacific Garbage Screening project in 2017, we knew the German architect was on to something. Following a dive, Hansch was shocked to discover copious amounts of plastic waste instead of fish in the sea, so she decided to team up with an interdisciplinary team of natural scientists, engineers and marine biologists to develop a way to remove plastic waste from the water. 

Supported by sanitary fittings manufacturer GROHE, the team worked on a system to reduce plastic pollution, centred around a specially designed floating platform system, which will extract plastic particles from the water before they damage the delicate surrounding aquatic ecosystems.

‘Our vision is to join forces with a global network of partners to collaboratively solve the global plastic pollution crisis. We want to stop plastic entering our environment and support the transition from a linear economy towards a circular economy,' says the project's head of research and development, Dr. Tilman Flöhr. ‘We want to generate significant impact as well as added value in affected regions together with the local stakeholders. This is vital for the long-term success of our project. At the core stands the sense of responsibility for an intact environment and the understanding of its value for a healthy society.'

Sketch book open, drawings of the screening project in action, persons hands, one showing a blue wool jumper sleeve, holding a blue felt tip pen whilst adding colour to the black sketch

(Image credit: TBC)

The pioneering programme promises an exciting future for sustainability and tackling the huge problem of plastics in the world's waters (highlighted by the recent global Plastic Free July initiative). It stems from Hansch's student masters' thesis, which the young architect later developed further and crowdfunded before founding the Germany-based, non-profit organisation for fighting plastic pollution. 

Now, the team is supported by a number of organisations, such as RWTH Aachen University, the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Berky GmbH, Tomra as well as governmental organisations on regional, national and international level. ‘To our knowledge, our technological concept is unique so far,' explains Flöhr. ‘It pairs stationary and mobile cleanup technologies to recover plastic from rivers before it can enter our oceans, and in a next step, feed it back into the circular economy. The aim is to collect data along with the material to identify the responsible entry pathways and work with local stakeholders to close them.'

This month sees the launch of the first garbage filtering boat, CollectiX, which is being launched to start removing plastic from the waters of a Slovakian river. This will trial the system in order to bring the team closer to their goal.

The next step? ‘[It] will be to scale up our mobile boat technology and put it into service in various regions of the world, with focus on Africa and Southeast Asia,' says Flöhr. ‘The prototype of our stationary platform system is also scheduled for this year and we will follow up on possible recycling options.' 

Cloudy sky, white plastic carrier bag sinking in the blue ocean, half of the bag under the water is breaking up into small fragments, demonstrating the Pacific garbage screening conceptual

(Image credit: TBC)

Pacific garbage screening project boat in colour blue, stretch of water with dumped plastic waste scattered on the surface, thick cluster of surrounding tall trees framing the landscape, side wall and fencing to the right of the image, another larger boat in the distance, blue sky

(Image credit: TBC)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).