HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Greenpeace staff and volunteers are back in Honolulu with two and a half tons of plastic pollution collected from the shorelines around Kahoolawe.
"I've never seen so much plastic trash in my life in one beach location before. It was horrific," said Kate Melges, ocean plastics campaigner for Greenpeace USA.
The environmental organization's historic ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is docked at Pier 12, where Greenpeace staff and volunteers have started sorting through all the trash to determine what's reuseable, as well as identify what companies create the most plastic waste.
This was Greenpeace's first cleanup trip to Hawaii, and those who were onboard for the two-day mission say it was heartbreaking to see all the pollution on the uninhabited island.
"It's this magnificent island with huge mountains. It's beautiful. But as you get closer and closer, all you can see on the coastline is trash," said Melges.
"It reminds me of what we saw in Manila Bay, and that's right across of a big trash plant. So it's really pretty awful," said John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA.
Greenpeace partnered with local organizations like Protect Kahoolawe Ohana, the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii to collect piles of fishing gear, plastic bottles, children's toys, even beach equipment.
"We had to load these sacks up, one or two at a time, on the zodiac boats. Then brought them back to the ship to load those up in the crane. So logistically it was pretty challenging," said Rebecca Mattos with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.
While Greenpeace says this is some of the worst plastic pollution they've seen around the world, Mattos says, unfortunately, this amount of garbage is not unusual around the state.
"We do about eight cleanups of this size per year, and the very next year, we go back and it's covered with the same amount of trash," Mattos said.
By keeping a tally of what household brands and products are found polluting the Earth's oceans and shorelines, environmentalists hope it encourages more companies and people to be greener.
"Definitely found a lot of Nestle products, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi products as well. We're never going to stop it from washing onshore as long as plastic is still being produced at the rate that it is," said Melges.
Greenpeace says the plastic waste that's not reusable will be incinerated here on Oahu.
The Arctic Sunrise will be open for public tours this weekend at Pier 12.