Big Island Beach Attracts Plastic Trash

Published: Nov. 8, 2007 at 10:58 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2007 at 4:59 PM HST
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Charles Moore
Charles Moore

By Howard Dashefsky

KAMILO BEACH, Big Island (KHNL) -- A beach that was once a place where Native Hawaiians used to come to find logs for their voyaging canoes, is now a place where tons of trash wind up every year.

A once scenic beach on the Big Island is now a disturbing reminder of pollution spoiling the world's oceans.

It's one of the most picturesque place on Earth. And sadly, it's one of the most polluted. It's Kamilo Beach on the southern tip of the Big Island.

Because it's constantly exposed to the trade winds blowing directly on shore, it winds up being a gathering place for marine debris from all over the Pacific.

Specifically, it's become an accumulation zone for plastic trash.

"Here what were seeing is what all plastic trash turns into as t floats for hundreds of years in the ocean. Plastic fragments" said environmentalist Charles Moore.

What was once a beautiful white sand beach is what Moore and others now call 'Plastic Beach'. And it is not only on the surface.

"This plastic goes down a foot deep. At one time these were toothbrushes, pens, cigarette lighters, plastic bottles, plastic caps, but now they're plastic fragments and pre-production plastic pellets, together forming a new kind of sand: plastic sand here on the beaches of Hawaii".

In all, tons and tons of debris, and none of it generated here.

"This plastic sand is coming from all around the Pacific rim, swirling into a vortex which eventually brings it to these shores. This is the place where Hawaiians came to find bodies of people who were lost at sea. Nowadays, this beach is where we come to find what our throw-away society has done to the environment."

Over his years of combing this beach, Moore has come across almost everything you could imagine. He also says until there's a better way of getting plastic products back into the productive stream, the problem will only get worse.

"We need to have a zero-waste philosophy. If this product has value, it must have value again and again and again."

Moore says Kamilo Beach represents millions upon millions of square miles here in the Pacific that are affected in the very same manner. He also says right now less than five percent of the worlds plastic gets recycled.