Coastal cleanup bags 6.8M pounds of debris


POSTED: Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cleanup volunteers around the world in one day last year bagged nearly 11.5 million pieces or 6.8 million pounds of marine debris, with smoking-related detritus leading the list.

In Hawaii on Sept. 20, the coastal cleanup day, 2,392 volunteers collected 143,368 items or 22,481 pounds of marine debris.

A global picture of the “;major pollution problem of the 21st century”; is presented in a report, “;A Rising Tide of Ocean Debris and What We Can Do About It,”; issued today by the Ocean Conservancy.

“;Marine debris is more than a blemish on nature, it is a potential threat to our food supply, to tourism and economic activity, to marine wildlife and ecosystems and to our personal health,”; the report said.

It even relates to the impacts of climate change, it said.

The good news, it added, is that marine debris can readily be addressed because people are the source.

Of 143,368 items picked up by Hawaii's volunteers, 71,248 were related to smoking, including cigarette butts and wrappers and plastic lighters; 57,438 were left by shoreline and recreational users; 12,434 were related to ocean and water activities; 1,722 were heavy items dumped by people — appliances, batteries, car parts and 55-gallon drums, and 526 were for medical or personal hygiene use — diapers, syringes, condoms and tampons.

Chris Woolaway, with Friends of Honolulu Parks & Recreation and Keep Honolulu Beautiful, was the local project coordinator. One of the issues highlighted was the impact of marine debris on a local economy, she pointed out.

The trash seriously affects tourism, maritime, transportation and recreation industries, but there hasn't been a way to pull the information together, she said.

Data for each year in the cleanup — scheduled next Sept. 19 for the 24th year — are compiled into a Marine Debris Index used to draft laws and make packaging and recycling improvements.

See http://www.getthedrftandbag for a list of county coordinators and other information.

“;It's really cool,”; Woolaway said, pointing out in Hawaii “;industry has stepped up big time and they don't get enough kudos for what they do. They're doing this because they're part of the community.”;

For example, she noted the Hawaii Nets-to-Energy program cited in the report. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corp., Covanta Energy and other public and private organizations support the program, which collects and burns lost fishing gear. New England has replicated the program.

A key issue is to have port facilities available for debris used or recovered from the ocean, Woolaway said, describing a “;very successful”; federal/industry project in Honolulu Harbor to provide a place for fishermen to leave fishing gear.

Fishermen also can recycle fishing lines by taking them to fishing supply stores, which box the material up and send it to a fishing gear manufacturer in California, she said. NOAA provided funding to promote the effort.

Aloha Aina also is an industry recycling effort, she said, explaining that businesses get together at least once a month and go to a community for recyclable items that go to Schnitzer. “;The whole process over the years has evolved to a much bigger and much more collaborative effort.”;