HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Another massive cleanup in the Pacific yielded 82 tons of trash from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
A team of 18 divers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spent 41 days in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands working to clean reefs and shoreline.
"We are free-diving and pulling these nets off the reef and we are also walking the shorelines and cleaning up all the marine debris that is on the beaches, " said Kevin O’Brian, NOAA’s Marine Debris Project Lead.
After the deployment, the team returned to Ford Island with all of the waste they had gathered.
And on Friday morning, a group of seventh graders from Iolani School helped to sort and catalog more than 164,000 pounds of debris.
“It’s kind of devastating when you think about it,” said student Bubba Shea-Park.
NOAA team members say that while the amount of debris collected is discouraging, they're optimistic about the future and the role younger people will play in reducing waste in the world's oceans.
“It’s not too late, I think there is a lot of hope. I think the next generation like these kids out here today are a good sign of things to come,” said O’Brien.
"Education is going to be one of the only ways that we are going to be able to tackle this issue," added team member Tessa Code.
Much of the 82 tons of debris collected this fall can be reused or recycled. Other materials like fishing nets and Styrofoam will be incinerated and used for energy.