There is no doubt that single-use plastics pose a serious threat to the well-being of communities and ecosystems around the world. If the status quo remains, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans, and 20% of fossil fuel will be used to make plastic, exacerbating global carbon emissions.
This reality is no less true in Hawaii, where our shorelines are covered in plastic. At least 220 tons of plastic — equivalent to the weight of 15 school buses — is removed from Hawaii’s shores each year.
This incredible effort, which every year costs over $1 million in volunteer hours and coordination, only scratches the surface of what washes up or sinks into the depths of the ocean. It barely begins to account for the astonishing amount of microplastic particles that contaminate our sand.
There is also no doubt that COVID-19 is dealing a serious blow to Hawaii and the world. As with any crisis, it has been imperative that we focus our attention and respond.
What we know now is that plastic pollution has worsened during the pandemic, brought on by a boom in the use of disposable plastic items like food takeout containers and PPE. One recent study showed that 129 billion disposable masks and 65 billion gloves are being used each month around the world. A significant portion of these are winding up in the sea.