Concentrate on plastic this Earth Day

This Earth Day, be more cautious of recycling. Don't let those plastics end up in beautiful oceans.

Brittain Komoda

This Earth Day, be more cautious of recycling. Don't let those plastics end up in beautiful oceans.

By Brittain Komoda, Staff Writer

Imagine going to your favorite snorkeling spot expecting to swim with beautiful fish, but instead, you find yourself swimming in chunks of plastic.

In January the World Economic Forum released a report that predicted that there would be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. While plastics and plastic packaging are an integral part of the economy and the production of it has increased over the past 50 years, only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling and only 5 percent of the recycled material value is used subsequently, according to the report.

“It’s sad to think that our oceans could be filled with plastic,” said Tayler Duarte, 20, of Wailuku, Maui. “Being from a place that is known for its beautiful beaches and marine life and then hearing this prediction is quite alarming.”

With Earth Day coming up on Friday, April 22, we can join together to help stop this prediction. Earth Day is the largest civic observance, with more than 1 billion people participating in activities around the world. According to its website, Earth Day is a day to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide and to mobilize it as the most effective vehicle to build a healthy, sustainable environment, address climate change, and protect the Earth for future generations.

One thing we can do to help reduce plastic in our communities is join the pledge to stop using unnecessary plastic products such as bags and bottles. Instead use reusable bags, bottles, silverware, dishes, cleaning tools, and other products that are alternatives to plastic.

Here in Hawaii, we are witnesses to the distress plastic can have on our community. Located on the southeast coast of the island of Hawai‘i, Kamilo Beach and an adjacent 2.8 miles of shoreline are made up of more than 90 percent of plastic, according to greenhome.com. The accumulated plastic marine debris on Kamilo Beach is carried from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located in the North Pacific Ocean.

At least 8 million tons of plastics leak into the ocean each year. That is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. At that rate, if no plan or action is taken, it is predicted to increase to two truckloads per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. Research currently shows that about 150 million tons of plastic are floating in the ocean.

“Having fish here in Hawaii are a part of the natural appeal,” said Judy Ng, 20, of Honolulu. “If there is more plastic than fish, it will take away from the main attraction of our islands and give off the impression that we don’t care enough to take care of our beautiful beaches.”

According to The Oregonian, the Dutch environmental foundation is building a “humongous Roomba” with efforts to remove 42 percent of the plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The floating barrier will be anchored to the seabed in a spot where the wind and current will direct large amounts of plastics. The barrier is designed to allow fish to escape, but not the plastic. If enough funds are raised, and everything goes as planned, it is set to be completed and deployed in the ocean by 2020.

Join together this Earth Day to help Hawai’i stay beautiful. Here are some events you can take part in around Oahu, in honor of this year’s Earth Day:

April 22 – Earth Day Festival at UH Manoa

April 23 – Mauka to Makai at Waikiki Aquarium 

April 23 – Sea Life Park Beach Cleanup across Kalanianaʻole Highway from the Park

April 30 – Earth Day Cleanup and Ultimate Sand Sifter Competition at Waimanalo Beach Park