By Nina Wu
So, what do you do with all of that plastic debris — small pieces of broken-down plastics, or microplastics — cleaned from the beach?
For Honolulu artist and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii volunteer, Shannon McCarthy, the answer is, get creative and make art.
She created a Hawaiian monk seal ocean scene (two adult monk seals, one pup) on the North Shore on five wooden panels constructed out of reclaimed wood with a border of invasive strawberry guava wood. The mosaic was first unveiled at a beach cleanup at Point Panic (Kakaako) in June, then went on display at Honolulu Hale. It will be up at the Jack Johnson concert at Waikiki Shell Aug. 1 and 2.
The microplastics were collected using rudimentary sand sifters, then separated and glued to the panels. Students from Kainalu Elementary, St. John Vianney, St. Louis School, St. Anthony, Kahaluu Elementary and members of Girl Scouts Troop 840 all pitched in on the artwork, as well as helped with beach cleanups over the past three months, collecting the marine debris.
"The mosaics are inspired by the need to spread awareness of plastics and marine debris in all the oceans," said McCarthy, "how to reduce or eliminate our daily impact on it, and how drastically beautiful Hawaii and its inhabitants are being affected by this pollution."
Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii's first Ultimate Sand Sifter Challenge, meanwhile, is still on. The contest encourages Oahu residents to create and build sand sifters to efficiently remove the microplastics from the sand on the beach.
"The hope is that this mural will directly inspire people to pay attention to the overwhelming amount of marine debris affecting our coastlines," said SCH executive director Kahi Pacarro. "Our Sand Sifter Challenge is meant to foster out-of-the-box thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and teamwork to tackle a growing problem that, if not addressed, will lead to an unsustainable future for Hawaii's coastlines."
The sand sifters must be human powered and built for under $300. The winning team wins a $2,500 cash prize plus an additional $2,500 to replicate five sand sifters. Submissions for the contest are due Sept. 26. Visit sustainablecoastlineshawaii.org/ultimate-sand-sifter-challenge to learn more.