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Man Builds His Own Debt-free Island Made of Trash

I’m excited to show you how this British artist turned “eco architect” has literally created his own piece of land on a floating island made out of more than 100,000 plastic bottles.

Essentially he has built his own island with other people’s trash. His name is Richart Sowa. And he’s been doing this for many years now. Since 2008, he has been letting people tour his island and tiny home. That’s how we got this video (thanks to Rose Robin, who toured it and published the video tour and interview back in 2013.)

So far Richart’s island has been featured in newspapers, TV shows, documentaries, and more. It’s been shared all over the world. Even in an MTV Extreme Cribs episode back in 2011. And Richart Sowa is just keeping busy making constant improvements to his island.

As of 2013, his island features three beaches, two ponds, one house, solar panels, and more. In the future? An ocean powered cooling system and more. You must watch the video to really understand and be able to enjoy it thoroughly. So please enjoy and re-share below. Thank you!

Man Builds His Own Debt-free Island Made of Trash


Images © Rose Robin











Images © Rose Robin

Video: Man Builds Debt-free Island Made of Trash

Our big thanks to Teri J. Foster for tipping us on this story!

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!

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{ 37 comments… add one }
  • Avatar xenia

    Brilliant Idea !

  • Avatar Cindy

    Not sure if it’s the life for me. But, he did make me smile. 🙂

  • Avatar Dan Gersalia

    Absolutely amazing and ingenius! That would be the life for me! He’s one lucky dude!:)

  • wow,,,weired but!!! he is right and very educaated,,,aand HAPPY

  • Flamboyant, yes. But, it all makes sense an island that is self supporting creating it’s own eco system from trash. Be interesting to long term results.

  • Avatar Two Crows

    Would love to start an island of my own. Don’t know if the authorities in Florida would leave me alone to do it – – but would love to give it a go.

    • Avatar Peter Piper

      I think they are giving him special permission just to see what can be done… a sort of experiment by the community.

  • Avatar carrie

    Ok…at first I thought he might be the guy of my first (only) acid trip in the 60’s…a sky pilot! But, no…he is quite clever and knows obviously a great deal to be pulling off this life~style. I could not do this because ‘weather’ does scare me a bit. Nor would I eat food which has been cultivated with human waste. And my dog needs land and other canine friends….that being said…I think he’s brilliant!

  • Avatar Lynnette

    A little mad, a little crazy and a little genius! ♡♡♡

  • Avatar Karen R

    A true original who is extremely intelligent and not afraid to follow his dream . . .people like him are the pioneers of invention and change.

  • Avatar Kelly Libert

    Absolutely charming and remarkable ingenuity . You could see his enthusiasm in the twinkle in his eyes. Not for me, though. I would feel too vulnerable to live there. Containers on concrete piers are more my thing.

  • Avatar Eli

    Great fellow! He is definitely pushing the limits of what can be achieved. I salute him and wish him the best:)

  • Avatar Bev

    What an amazing man. In my mind’s eye I can see him teaching this at a University. Just amazing. I want to see lots of flowers and veggies in bloom! He even sings well. 🙂

  • Avatar C

    Ever been to Xolchimilgo in Mexico City? The floating gardens? The ‘idea’ is as old as the hills… or the ancient aztecs…take your pick!

  • Avatar Monique

    What a charming man – love his enthusiasm! Thank you for sharing!

  • He’s most definitely a charmer with contagious enthusiasm! I need to cultivate some of his joue de vivre!

  • Avatar Ann

    He and his eco island home would fit in with that movie Waterworld!

  • Avatar Lorraine

    This also reminded me of Xochimilco, but in the ocean instead of a lake. Sure makes me smile. Our culture seems unrewarding, it is revealing that he left the United States of Incorporation to be able to have such… fun

  • Avatar Jeff

    Hate to break it to him, but his island is not going to fly because he has a parabolic mirror on top of it.

    • Jeff, you are such a spoil sport. 😉

    • Avatar varenikje

      Yeah, for all of his talk about love and peace and whatever he said, I thought “I hope he never comes into contact with ISIS.” Go ahead, call me a pessimist.

  • Avatar Mark

    Looks great and makes Kevin Costner’s water world look even more ridiculous .. I wonder if you could do that and get away with it in Australia??

  • Avatar Omaam

    Wow! This man knows a lot of stuff. He’s forever free. May God continue to bless and keep him.

  • Avatar Maudyfish

    It is a great idea. But, I wonder if it is healthy for him. Plastic is the issue.

  • Avatar PedroM

    Great video,
    Not sure how old is this video, some years back I saw a documentary about him, and some legal issues he had with the Mexican government, at state level. I hope he can still lives his dream, happines has many faces, and his has a HUGE smile.

    Thank you for sharing

    Pedro M
    Semper Fi

  • Avatar shelly

    I love this! I was on the Isla Mujeres last 2014, after flying into Cancun from the states — I was looking for the old pirate haven of old and some quiet (had no intention of staying in Cancun! — was just stopping over on my way back to the mountains in Guatemala). Well, I took a ferry to the Isla Mujeres and where it landed was tons of traffic, noise, and mucho tourists (like myself, I guess) — not the quiet haven I was looking for after all. I had heard that there was a really nice beach on the other side of the island, but I was so overwhelmed and pooped out from my travels, that I just walked along the cement waterfront (did see some old stone steps and rock platforms that may have been pirate or colonial watch towers (at least I imagined so).
    Any hoo … now that you have shown this wonderful video, I will make another trip there. What a wonderful adventure to create such an island — I’d like to build my own! Thank you so much. Best, Shelly

  • Avatar Amy

    Love it!! second time this year the island I live in has been featured here. Isla Mujeres is a beautiful place with many tiny houses. This guy is awesome to hang out with here. He also gives tours of his place and is a regular attraction here for tourists to see him

  • Avatar Amy

    It is not sad. As he recycles all the plastic and when any go had he takes them off and replaced them. Smashed bottles go to the rectle facility we have here.

  • Avatar nathan

    Amazing ingenuity

  • Hi:

    Awesome island!! Just love the fact that you are using junk that could harm the ocean and these plastic bottles are not sitting in landfills. You are very creative and intelligent to think up something that can be useful to you and keep the universe from harmful stuff that a lot of people don’t think can destroy our earth by not recycling them. By the way I love your video of your tiny house and you have a great voice!! Thank you for preserving our planet!! Enjoy your island!! Carol Perry

  • Avatar Heather Bown

    Looking forward to visiting this winter. Hasta luego!

  • Avatar Anon.

    I kept wondering about his source for fresh water – is he storing rain water? If so, how much weight can such a structure bear? Very interesting project.

  • Much work to then manage everyday the complexity that creates such a sokution. It is not easy.

    • Avatar Bonnie Robinson

      It is easy for him, because it represents the source of his joy in living.

  • Avatar Large Marge

    Enchanting, captivating, contagious!

    Creating a midget hurricane to fly an island. We are believers!

    Go, dreamteam, go!

  • Avatar Michael L

    I just read that the original island was destroyed in 2005 by a hurricane. However, he set out to build a second island. How fantastic!

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