Every year it is estimated that 8 million tons of plastic debris finds its way into the ocean. As wind and tide push the plastic debris it begins to collect in large debris patches, the largest of which is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This massive garbage patch is located just North East of the Hawaiian chain and is estimated to be nearly 4 times larger than the country of Japan.
An average of 6.8 million American tourist come to Hawaii every year. Japan, with 1.5 million tourists, has the most foreign visitors. The plastic debris washing up on our Hawaiian shores is a multinational worldwide issue.
The Big Island of Hawaii, which is closest to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is seeing a yearly increase in the amount of plastic debris washing up on its shores. Kamilo Point and Green Sand Beach have especially been impacted by disproportionally large amounts of plastic.
As the plastic debris makes its way to the Hawaiian shoreline and crashes onto the beach, it is broken down into smaller and smaller bits, also known as micro-plastic. As the size becomes less than 5mm it is ingested by aquatic marine life. Marine creatures at the top of the food chain, such as Hawaiian Monk Seals, sea turtles, dolphins, whales and sea birds are especially negatively impacted. Many of these sea creatures are found every year washed up on Hawaiian shores with lethal amounts of toxic plastic inside them.
Additionally, the plastic that makes its way onto the shoreline is also melting in the Hawaiian sun and coating the rocks, making it nearly impossible to remove.
Not only are the beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii being negatively impacted, but Oahu and the other Hawaiian Islands are seeing large amounts of plastic debris. Popular windward beaches on Oahu like Kailua, Waimanalo and Lanikai are seeing increasing amounts of plastic debris on their beaches.
Many of the beaches being negatively impacted are difficult to access, requiring special entry permits and 4×4 vehicles. Additionally, equipment in support of underwater cleanup efforts is increasing in costs. Despite these obstacles we feel that preserving these delicate ecosystems is worth every effort.
As we continue our cleanup efforts, we plead with all citizens of the world to do their part in leaving the beautiful beaches of Hawaii better than you found it. Be mindful to pack out all trash brought to the beach, and if you see trash left behind help us and pick it up and take it with you.