Gentleman lives on floating plastic bottle island home

Mr. "Rishi" Sowa lives on an floating island. That he made. From empty plastic bottles and a few mangrove plants. In Mexico.

From the blog:

From 1998 to 2005, Rishi Sowa hand-built and lived on the first Spiral Island, which floated on over 300,000 recycled bottles! It was destroyed by Hurricane Emily in 2005. Rishi has now built an even better island at Isla Mujeres, Mexico, in a lagoon which offers shelter from bad weather! Rishi will continue to make improvements to the Island, so it will always be a eco-work-of-art in progress!

YouTube video by The Resident.

There's an online community of "Spiral Islanders" here.

(via BB Submitterator, thanks EeyoreX)


  1. I’ve been following this guy’s adventure for almost half of my life! I thought he gave up after the disastrous hurricane, I’m so heartened and excited that he managed to rebuild (even if it is only 1/3rd the size). He’s living my dream, and one day I might follow in his steps. (yeah, right… but… it could happen!)

  2. How about this on a REALLY large scale?
    I can see the headlines now

    Swirling vortex of garbage becomes new symbol
    of freedom in the Pacific

  3. Ah, L. Bob Rife, we meet again! Where was it was last met, oh right, Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash. See you in five years!

    At this point, pretty much everything described in that book twenty years ago has happened.

  4. First, he built it in a place called Puerto Aventuras right at the inlet, then I heard he left Puerto but I didn´t hear where to (like if I cared about whatever he did anyway, he´s a bit of weirdo). Anyway, he had a pretty good idea about it and…I know where he used to get his weed.

    1. When you burn fossil fuels, carbon goes into the atmosphere, bonds with 03 (ozone) (unstable) forming c02 and 01 (also unstable)- which quickly forms with more carbon to form co2. = depletion of oxygen from the air and ozone from the ozone layer.

      1. When you burn fossil fuels, carbon goes into the atmosphere IN THE FORM OF c02, which DOES NOT bond with 03. The depletion of oxygen from the air does indeed occur when you burn it, as “burning” is more or less by definition the combining of oxygen with the burned substance, and in the case of fossil fuels, c02 is the most abundant by-product. At ground level, 03 is considered a contaminant and any trace amounts of 03 burned would be a REDUCTION in pollution as 03 is a strong oxidant (similar in many respects to “free radicals” which are usually considered undesirable [yeah you read that right, the ozone producing gadgets are basically adding free radicals to your environment, which is supposedly not a good thing]). Petroleum products, as far as I know, are generally not burned at the altitude where o3 is considered beneficial.

  5. While it’s in the ‘cool’ catagory. Just because he’s making stuff.

    I don’t think it ecologically sound, as stated his first attempt was destroyed in a hurricane. Where did all the plastic bottles go? I doubt he picked them up after they where scattered by wind and waves.

    Eventually the plastic island will succumb to nature, and disrepair..and this guy will contribute 300,000 more plastic bottles to the ocean.

      1. But in the big timescale of nature/earth. The results are the same…they end up in the ocean. Bad.

        Landlock those suckers..melt them down and make park benches plastic beams for land based houses, recyclable clothing, etc..etc. The ocean is a harsh mistress…almost any structure on the ocean will eventually be claimed by the ocean. It’s just a matter of time.

        1. Yes, but the way I see things like this is they actually bring the issue of waste to the fore without being too preachy about it. Anything that makes people think twice about tossing a bottle onto the ground is a good thing. The results are the same, true. But perhaps some young kid will want to grow up and become a scientist and discover a way to better repurpose plastic.

  6. I’m less worried about infrastructure, and more worried about overhead. What does he eat/drink/wifi/outlet?

  7. Local want ad:

    Man seeking skipper for nautical experiment.

    Also seeking:

    No Gilligans, please.

  8. I’m seriously wondering, does this have any (inspirational) relation to Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach theme and title?

  9. Sooo, this guy is basically living on a ‘home-made’ houseboat.

    Not really that unique. ‘floating’ houses have been the rage in places like the Netherlands for awhile now.

    But he gets a high score for effort.

    Besides, on your own ‘island’ – beyond the 3-mile boundary, in ‘international waters’ – you can do almost anything.

  10. I wonder why this guy’s story keeps resurfacing every year or two.

    I mean, we get it, he knows how to build floating islands out of rubbish… but his solution won’t scale, because of bad weather. Plus, trying to “reclaim the oceans” is a pointless strategy; by the time we’ll need that, it will all be over anyway.

    In the grand narrative of our quest for a sustainable lifestyle, he’s just reached a (very fashionable and long-predicted) evolutionary dead end. Why should I care?

    1. Part of the reason why I find this story so compelling is because it makes us think long and hard about what exactly “sustainability” really IS. As is illustrated in this thread.

      Yes, eventually this contraption will wear down and break apart, so if it is not dismantled in an orderly fashion and recycled at the end of its run it will become garbage again, and ultimatly add to the pollution of the earth.

      And, when you think about it, the same goes for allmost every single man-made structure and/or object created since the dawn of the idustrial era. The only thing that differs is the timeframe.

  11. What are the costs involved / legal issues? What happens when his garbage island coasts in front of a wealthy Mexican’s lakefront property?

    I would hate to be his tax adviser.

  12. Makers, I issue this challenge. How would you make this safe(r) from weather/waves? Alter this design, see if you could scale it. We need an Atlantis/R’lyeh/Rapture. Lets make ourselves a micro country!

  13. If you wanted to scale it up, you’d most likely have to move to a stronger building material than plastic bottles. Either by replacing the bottles entirely (using something like spare tires or old shipping containers filled with a buoyant material) or by using some sort of cement to hold the bottles together. (I wonder if you could make a bunch of bottles surrounded by concrete float? And would it be strong enough to support a house?)

  14. This genius guy is so strangy genius because nobody thought of these ideas. I guess he is new to these ideas and i guess he would make lots more ideas to make the world prevent.once i coudn’t find the video so i just gone spiral i got lots of peoples who have doe this the good thing about him is that he discovered that new idea of spiral islanders.i’m so proud of this guy because 1.he is the first guy who discovered it 2.he was struggling to get those ideas 3.he was confident bout his plan because everybody said’u can’t do it’ but he didn’t listen to them and he was confident he can do it 4.his struggling of work to do his island how did he struggle. 1.he struggled by collecting the bottles.2.he struggled when roping up his bottles so it could fit.3.he struggled when fixing his island 4.when he lives alone without his parents and families and focus on his project 5.when he makes lots of things in his island 6 the good thing is every day he’ll makes his island larger.he is a genius because he made lots of things in his island he is pro he made mangroves in his island .now i feel like i want to make that island they are so kool i’m going to make one of those when i grow older.

  15. I think it’s great what he has done for himself.. but my question is: “What happens to all these bottles, when they are blown away by a hurricane? Where do these bottles end up”??

  16. Hola Boingers – I just started a kickstarter campaign to raise funds and share rewards so that I can launch Joysxee Island out of the lagoon and into the Bay. Exciting times and thanks for the past support!!!!

Comments are closed.