Sydney's Living Seawall: Giving Plastic A Purpose

  The Living Seawall will be constructed from tiles crafted from concrete and recycled plastic fibers.

The Living Seawall will be constructed from tiles crafted from concrete and recycled plastic fibers.

”Rich, vibrant habitats have been replaced with seawalls and degraded by plastic pollution,” said Nick Connor, Managing Director of Volvo Australia, who went on to explain that one garbage truck of plastic enters the ocean every minute, and 50% of Sydney’s shoreline is artificial. But in line with researchers' claims that 'cleaning' the ocean and removing all the plastic is simply not feasible, he decided that a different, more innovative approach was needed to fight pollution. So together with the Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences (SIMs), Reef Design Lab, and its agency WhiteGREY, the company has created a specially designed ‘Living Seawall’ to protect marine environments, which is crafted from recycled plastic.

  The design of the tiles mimics the root structure of native mangrove trees.

The design of the tiles mimics the root structure of native mangrove trees.

Unveiled by Volvo at a beach clean event at Sydney’s Rose Bay as part of the UN’s World Environment Day initiative, the Living Seawall will be constructed in Sydney Harbour over the next few months to help to recreate the natural ocean environment that has been lost to urban sprawl. Made from 50 concrete tiles reinforced with 100% recycled plastic fibers, embedded in such a way that they cannot disperse into the environment, each one is etched with tiny alcoves to give oysters, fish and filter feeding organisms a place to live and thrive just as they would in a natural habitat. The tiles, which each measure 50cm x 50cm, aim to mimic the root structure of native mangrove trees that were once prolific in the area and encourage the growth and colonization of organisms, which will filter pollutants, particles and heavy metals from the water in a bid to help keep the harbor and ocean clean.

The seawall project is an extension of Volvo’s existing environmental commitments, and the company is an active supporter of the UN Environment Clean Seas campaign. “This is one of the largest living seawalls in the world and will be an important tool for research, as well as a mechanism for managing marine urban infrastructure,” said Connor. “We are investing in ongoing research to monitor the water quality, marine life habitation, and overall effectiveness of the seawall in Sydney Harbour.” And the brand is now also in discussions to roll out Living Seawalls to other cities across the world.

In terms of the environmental impact of its own business, Volvo has committed to putting electric motors into every new car launched from 2019 onwards, and achieve carbon neutral manufacturing operations by 2025. Its cars are 85% recyclable and 95% recoverable, and the interior mats of its new XC40 SUV are made from recycled plastic bottles. The company has also pledged to remove single-use plastics from all its offices, canteens and events globally by the end of 2019, and will replace them with sustainable alternatives.