Most plastic pollution at sea starts out on land as single-use plastic on beaches, streets and sidewalks. Sometimes the wind blows trash out of trash cans or rainfall flushes litter through a storm drain system or directly to streams that lead to the ocean. After plastics enter the ocean, they slowly photodegrade into smaller pieces that marine life can mistake for food, sometimes with fatal results. Hawaii acts as a filter for global plastic pollution, making our beaches some of the dirtiest in the world for accumulating marine debris.
Due to the currents, the Windward (east) side of our island is inundated with marine debris from other parts of the world. Over 90% of what we pick up on those beaches is commercial fishing and aquaculture gear, like nets, ropes, buoys, hagfish traps, oyster spacers, and more. Some of these items come as far away as Asia and may have been floating at sea for several years. By the time they arrive on our beaches, much of it is microplastic, making it extremely difficult to clean up.
Our throwaway culture's addiction to convenience has led to a growing trash problem. Overfilled trash cans, broken recycling systems, and the challenges of managing waste on an island requires us to rethink and recreate our culture. Changing and creating new policies to require more sustainable practices is key. Shopping in ways to reduce waste is also paramount: buying in bulk and refilling items at stores like Protea Zero Waste, going to thrift stores like Goodwill, and places like Reuse Hawaii are key to shifting our consumer culture to a more sustainable and circular one. We need to simultaneously Vote With Our Dollars and demand top-down policy and business changes.
Zero Waste & Waste Reduction
High school, college, and other youth have become increasingly empowered and active in demanding real change from our government and businesses to address plastic pollution. This video highlights their influence during the fight to pass Bill 40, which passed in December of 2019 as one of the most comprehensive single-use plastic bans in the nation.