5 tons of marine debris airlifted from Kahoolawe destined for recycling

Five Tons of Marine Debris Removed from Kahoolawe
Five Tons of Marine Debris Removed from Kahoolawe(Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission)
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 8:38 PM HST
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KIHEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - An estimated five tons of marine debris was airlifted from Kahoolawe to Maui, with most of it destined for a second life thanks to recycling.

Every three years, staff from the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission and volunteers embark on a project to clean a veritable potpourri of trash, mostly plastic, from Kanapou Beach on the island’s eastern side.

Five Tons of Marine Debris Removed from Kahoolawe
Five Tons of Marine Debris Removed from Kahoolawe(Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission)

However, getting tons of rubbish off the island was delayed for several years due to the COVID pandemic and logistical issues.

Margaret Pulver of Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission explains that Kanapou is Hawaii’s own miniature North Pacific Garbage Patch.

“Some of the debris is generated locally, but much of it is carried by ocean currents across thousands of miles. When it aggregates at Kanapou, the trash is ankle deep, so we try to conduct these cleanups every three years or so to avoid having to stand up multiple operations.”

Twenty-three enormous fabric bags crossed the channel between Kahoolawe and Maui in sling loads beneath a Windward Aviation helicopter.

Five Tons of Marine Debris Removed from Kahoolawe
Five Tons of Marine Debris Removed from Kahoolawe(Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission)

Pulver said some of the plastics that remained on Kaho’olawe are to get a second life as erosion control structures.

A local nonprofit organization will take the material flown to Maui to create various second-life products.

Lopaka White, a 17-year-long employee of KIRC, said it’s disheartening to see how quickly and how much trash accumulates on the uninhabited island.

“You collect two tons and then another two tons show up. It’s everything, including bowling balls, snorkel equipment, fishing gear — you name it, we see it,” White commented.

Five Tons of Marine Debris Removed from Kahoolawe
Five Tons of Marine Debris Removed from Kahoolawe(Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission)

Pulver says the accumulation of plastics and discarded fishing line is a modern-day phenomenon. Not too many decades ago, driftwood would accumulate at Kanapou, but now what arrives is exclusively junk.

“When we see this stuff time after time, it should remind us all to think about our plastic use. What can we avoid? What can we reuse and recycle? Until we break our overreliance on plastics, this will be a never-ending project, not to mention the hazards marine debris poses to ocean animals like humpback whales, monk seals, and turtles,” Pulver added.