A green island made of plastic bottles – The story of Richart Sowa


We all know that feeling of having an ambitious idea and then not following up on it because you see too many possible problems on the road ahead of you. Lucky enough there are also people who just start working on crazy ideas and make it happen. Richart Sowa (a.k.a. Rishi) is one of these people and he made the impossible happen by building himself several green islands made of old plastic bottles.

The beginning of a beautiful dream

It all started on Richart Sowa’s balcony somewhere in Germany in 1977. Richart (born in 1953) had moved from Middlesbrough to Germany and worked as a carpenter at the time. His real passion was drawing and on that balcony he draw the image you can see below. It represents one of his first ideas of a green island which is floating on plastic bottles.


It all started wiht this drawing (©

A life crisis with a happy ending

Not long after the joyful period above, Richart Sowa went through a pretty dark era in his life: The relationship with his wife did not work out and his family decided to move back to England. Rishi decided to deal with his sorrow by travelling the world and finding his true self. He joined different religions like the Mormon culture and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, played music on the street, travelled in the USA and ended up in Mexico in the end of 1996. He was highly impressed and inspired by the Aztec farmers who would build floating islands to create arable landmade for themselves. Seeing this reminded him of the idea he had twenty years earlier on a balcony in Germany.

Richi’s first attempt

Richart Sowa decided to build his floating island on a beach called Zipolite located in San Pedro Pochutla. Zipolite is famous for the hammock and hippie colony as well as the liberal use of drugs. It is also still the only nudist beach in the whole country. Richart Sowa started to collect a lot of empty discarded plastic bottles which he put together in several nets. He used these nets with empty bottles to carry a structure of plywood. On top of this he build a small hut made of wood. Although it was just the beginning, he felt like his dream came through because he had build his first green floating island near the coast of Mexico.

Rishi collected as many PET bottles he found (©

A blessing in disguise

Unfortunately the residents were not happy about his floating island made of plastic. They called the police and as Richart Sowa had no rights he had to leave the village. Although he was sad about his dream falling apart he followed the orders and left. Interesting enough this ended up saving his life, because three days later hurricane Pauline destroyed the whole village and his island. This must have been destiny.

A floating island made by Richart Sowa (©

A second try: Spiral Island

It was 1997 when Richart Sowa gave his dream of a green eco-island a second chance. This time in Puerto Aventuras, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Once again he collected empty plastic bottles which he put in nets. On top of the nets he constructed a “floor” of bamboo and plywood. By planting mangroves on top of that, the island got even more stable. The roots of the mangroves would find their way into the water and strangle around the nets and plastic bottles. The plants loved the wet and sunny circumstances and the island became greener than Rishi could have ever imagined.

Richard on the water in front of his floating island (©

A luxury home with Solar Oven

This time Rishi was more ambitious than the first try. After he got a permit he created a home with three beaches, a garden with vegetables and flowers and a house with two floors, a roof terrace, a composting toilet and even a solar oven. He also collected rain water for the shower. Richart Sowa is a real environmentalist. That means that he always will try to build the island as sustainable as possible. He never would build something what would further pollute the earth.


Spiral Island surrounded by a beautiful sky (©

Seven years of work destroyed in several minutes

In July 2005, the Spiral island was fully destroyed by hurricane Emily. Richart Sowa could save his dogs and himself but his lifework was vanished. He had been working and living on Spiral Island for 7 years and this was a devastating blow for Rishi. In the end, just before the hurricane, the Spiral Island was made of 250,000 plastic bottles and was 66 by 54 feet large. A impressive achievement!

That’s the end…is it?

Richart Sowa was done and ready to give up when an investor with a green heart offered him the financial help to build one last floating island. His name was Oscar Constandse and he gave Rishi 20.000 Dollar to rebuild his island. Because this story got a lot of publicity more investors were willing to chip in some money and soon the amount was doubled. Richard Sowa decided he could not let down all these friendly people and was willing to give it one last try.

One last one: Joysxee Island

Richart Sowa started to rebuild his floating environment island in the waters of Isla Mujeres, located near Cancun. Joysxee Island contains about 100,000 plastic bottles and measures a size of 82 feet in diameter. Richart Sowa’s newest island also contained three beaches, a beautiful house, even a solar-powered waterfall, a small river, a wave-powered washing machine and solar panels. Volunteers from all over the world came to visit Joysxee and Rishi to help with this unique project.
A touristic attraction

Joysxee Island has been a very popular touristic attraction. People want to see the floating island and the impressive construction in real. It is just fascinating to see what can be done with only natural material. Richart Sowa used to give tours on the island for a small fee. At this moment it is unclear if you can still do a tour on Joysxee Island. Read the next paragraph for more information the status of Richart Sowa.

Richard Sowa’s last island: Joyxsee Island (©

What happened to Richart Sowa?

Richart Sowa is one of these impressive people who pursued his dreams and made things happen. He did not see all the troubles which might occur but just started. The result inspires people every day.

As we could read in a personal comment under this article, he is currently back in England because of illness. Bad weather and thieves demotivated him to keep working on the island. Obviously this is very sad for someone who always wanted the best for the environment and the world. Rishi writes in his comment that he will go back to Mexico this year (2019) so let’s hope he can still find the motivation to give the green island one last boost.

Keep us posted Richart!

Rishi playing the guitar with some friends (©