Raising awareness of plastic pollution

Published On: Mar 31 2012 03:09:36 PM HST   Updated On: Apr 02 2012 11:49:11 AM HST

The crew of a research ship in Hawaii prepared for a trip into the huge field of tsunami debris spreading across the Pacific Ocean.

While on land, concerned volunteers cleaned up our coastline and prepared for that debris to reach our islands.

On Saturday morning, Kewalo Basin was cleaned up. "We asked people to be stewards of the ocean at the places they surf everyday and enjoy everyday," said Lindsey Kesel, with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii held a clean-up, where volunteers picked out plastic bags, cleared litter tossed in the waters and scooped up floating debris carried in by the oceans currents. With the large amount of waste already found in the islands on any given day, volunteers worry about what will happen when the debris from the Japanese tsunami arrives. "We're gearing up for that marine debris to hit the islands, it is not going to be pretty," said Kesel.

"There was an estimated 20 million tons of debris that washed off in that one day," said Emily Penn, the Program Director for Pangaea Explorations.

Modeling data from the University of Hawaii showed the debris is moving around the pacific. Much of it will end up in the middle of the eastern or western Pacific Ocean, in large garbage patches, before some of it eventually reaches Hawaii.

Before that happens, the Sea Dragon research ship will seek out the debris by heading for the little explored garbage patch in the western Pacific. "We're going into the unknown we are really are discovering something we don't know what we will find," said Penn.

By getting up close to the massive amounts of floating debris, researchers will be able to learn how it affects the marine environment and that data will also help pinpoint when it will arrive in Hawaii.

When the ship heads into the heart of the debris, it will take more than just scientists but also videographers. Organizers of the mission felt allowing scientists to learn about the problem of plastic pollution is valuable, but showing the problem to the public could also make a huge difference.

On land, volunteers also showed young kids the problems facing our oceans. So the next generation will want to have a hand in fixing the problem. "The younger you learn about caring for your coastlines, the more directly involved you are for your whole life," said Kesel.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii will hold another cleanup April 22 for Earth Day. The cleanup will be at Makapuu, followed by a concert at Sea Life Park. Organizers expect thousands to attend the events, which raise awareness of ocean pollution.


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