The Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki has for years been the collection point for plastic debris and litter, which in turn flows into the ocean, not to mention the site of the worst massive sewage discharge of 48-million gallons of untreated wastewater in 2006.
Now, three non-profit groups — Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, 808 Cleanups and the Surfrider Foundation — are hoping to bring the Trash Water Wheel to Honolulu's Ala Wai Canal. The solar-powered wheel, which a Baltimore, Md. non-profit brought to its Inner Harbor two years ago, has reportedly removed more than 350 tons of litter there.
Baltimore water wheel powered by solar panels and currents. Courtesy Sierraclub.org.
It kind of looks like a covered wagon with a spinning wheel and array of solar panels on top. The Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore says it is capable of picking up 50,000 pounds of trash per day using a combination of old and new technology. Two booms direct trash and debris toward the front of the water wheel, which moves it up a conveyer belt (powered by the water wheel and solar panels) and into a dumpster.
Hawaii's three non-profits recently launched an indiegogo campaign seeking to raise $6,500 to conduct a feasibility study (plus offer donors various perks). The goal has been surpassed in less than 10 days.
Kahi Pacarro, director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, says he has met with state and city officials, who agreed the project should be a priority for Oahu but requires a feasibility study first. All funds beyond the goal will go towards the actual water wheel. If the feasibility study ends up determining that the water wheel is not feasible for Honolulu, the funds will be split between the three non-profits for perpetuating their missions of cleaning Hawaii's coastlines.
The Medi Bowl - Kalo falafel, fire-roasted baba ganoush, beet hummus, refreshing millet tabouleh over a bed of greens drizzled with a special herb tahini sauce - is served up in a wood bowl at the ‘Ai Love Nalo Restaurant in Waimanalo. Photo by Bruce Asato.
Restaurants in Hawaii can still offer takeout in polystyrene foam clamshells and plastic bags, but some are opting not to.
On World Oceans Daytoday (June 8, 2016), certified Ocean Friendly Restaurants, part of a new initiative launched by various non-profit groups, will offer discounts and specials if you feature them with #oceanfriendlyhi.
TheSurfriderFoundation,inpartnershipwiththeMauiHuliauFoundationandKokuaHawai‘iFoundationandRiseAbove PlasticsCoalition, is celebrating thestatewidelaunchoftheOceanFriendlyRestaurantsprogram today.
Whileconsumersarestillencouragedtosaynotostraws,bringtheirownreusablewaterbottlesandbags,Surfriderwanted torecognizebusinessesthatwere“doingtherightthingalready," even if not legally required to do so.
U.S. Congress could not agree on much in 2015, but surprisingly, it agreed that microbeads in cosmetic products should go in order to protect our oceans.
In December, both the U.S. House and Senate quickly passed the "Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015," prohibiting the manufacture and introduction of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentially-added plastic microbeads.
In between golfing and dining at Honolulu's fine restaurants during his annual winter vacation here, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law Dec. 28. He might have already made up his mind to sign the bill when Congress swept it through in December. But maybe, just maybe, he was inspired while enjoying the fine white sands of the beach in Kailua, which are embedded with a perpetual stream of microplastic debris that wash ashore.
The nationwide ban on manufacturing goes into effect July 1, 2017, while the ban on sales goes into effect in 2018.
Environmental advocates like Surfrider Foundation, 5Gyres, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Story of Stuff, which supported the "Ban the Bead" movement celebrated it as a victory. But Kahi Pacarro, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii says the group would have preferred the ban go into effect sooner.
"Between now and the time it does go into effect, it allows microbead producers and consumers to continue to pollute without consequence," he wrote in an e-mail.
Meanwhile, here's what you need to know:
>> How do you know if your cosmetic product has microbeads? If your toothpaste, face or body wash lists polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene, it probably contains microbeads. A list specifically for Hawaii is available at beatthemicrobead.org/images/pdf/red-hawaii.pdf.
>> Beat the Microbead, an international initiative, actually launched an app that lists products as red (avoid) or green (free of microbeads). Learn more at beatthemicrobead.org. Surprisingly, the list of red products include everything from 3D White Luxe toothpaste by Crest to cleansers by Neutrogena and Aveeno. The 2-in-1 wash and scrub at Victoria's Secret is on the list, too. If you click on the list for Hong Kong, you'll find several Shiseido beauty products as well.
>> Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins, co-founders of 5 Gyres, study trash around the world's oceans but discovered these microbeads in the Great Lakes. Just one tube of exfoliating face wash could contain more than 350,000 microbeads. An estimated 2.9 trillion microbeads enter U.S. waterways each year. Once in the marine ecosystem, the microbeads absorb toxins that are transferred to fish that mistake them for food.
>> The tiny plastic particles, or microbeads, in these personal care products can easily be replaced with natural ones such as sea salt, apricot kernels or jojoba. The microbeads are designed to go down the drain, but are difficult to filter out through wastewater treatment systems due to their small size.
>> The Society for Conservation Biology confirmedthat the microbeads pose a threat to the environment, resulting in adverse health effects in wildlife and people.
Members of the Surfrider Foundation were among supporters pushing for a bill to ban the microbeads at the Hawaii legislature last year as part of its Rise Above Plastics campaign. The bill did not pass. Several other U.S. states, including California, had passed a ban, but the federal one offers an earlier start date and covers self-defined "bioplastic" microbeads, which are also an environmental concern because they dont' actually biodegrade.
Stuart Coleman, Hawaii coordinator of the Surfrider Foundation, was surprised how fast the bill passed through Congress despite its bipartisan divide. Next, the Surfrider Foundation will work on banning polystyrene foam, which most people call Styrofoam.
"We've got to work together," said Coleman. "It's not us versus them. It's what's best for our health and environment because they're almost always related."
Some keiki have fun while helping to divert waste at the Reef Hawaiian Pro last November at Vans Triple Crown. Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is helping to divert waste from the international surf event for the third year. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.
Where there are major events and a gathering of crowds, there is waste.
"We work together to minimize the effects that the competition has on our waste infrastructure by diverting as many resources as possible away from the landfill and encouraging composting and recycling," said Kahi Pacarro, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. "This past year, we were able to divert 60 percent of all debris that would have otherwise ended up getting wasted."
What that means is that staff and volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines will divert waste from the events with the following comprehensive waste diversion strategies:
>> Recycle and compost. Pop-up tents that separate recyclables and compostables from trash. The compostable items (food waste) will be processed at Waiehuna Farm, where it will undergo a bokashi fermenting process using effective microorganisms and then be transferred to the soil. Recyclables will be donated to local families. Trash will be sent to H-Power.
>> Reuse. Contestants and staff members will all be given a reusable water bottle that can be refilled at water stations instead of plastic water bottles.
>> Educate. This year, Sustainable Coastlines is launching an Education Station, a mobile classroom in a 20-foot container just in time for the Pipeline event. The station is a fun way to educate the public, including keiki, about marine debris and waste.
During the competition last year, Sustainable Coastline's efforts collected a total of 1,402 pounds of recyclables, compostables and trash.
It's possible to hold a large event while minimizing waste if the promoter or event producer is on board according to Pacarro.
Vans Triple Crown 2015 is very much on board. It's designated as a Deep Blue Surfing Event, which means it is required to divert waste from the landfill, utilize renewable energy to power the contest and webcast and support local community groups and charities. An HIC Pro Beach Cleanup was held Nov. 7 at Mokuleia's Army Beach.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing kicked off its 33rd year Nov. 12 with the Reef Hawaiian Pro, followed by the Vans World Cup of Surfing Nov. 24, and the Billabong Pipe Masters on Dec. 8, where the Vans Triple Crown and World Surfing League World Champion will be crowned.
Diverting waste from Vans Triple Crown. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.
Surfer Kelly Slater in front of the waste diversion pop-up tent. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.
Artwork of a Hawaiian monk seal among marine debris by Jacqueline Le of Hawaii. One of the winners from the 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest (to be featured in the 2016 calendar).
It's time again for the NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest, which opened on Tuesday, Oct. 20. All students from Kindergarten through 8th grade from U.S. states and territories are eligible to participate.
The deadline for entries (form here) is Nov. 30. Winners will be featured in the 2017 Marine Debris Calendar.
The phrase "marine debris" sometimes draws a blank stare — it's a formal name for basically, trash, or things that don't belong in the ocean. Examples include plastic wrap, plastic forks and spoons, plastic toys, metals takeout lunch waste, pieces of rope, plastic bags, paper napkins, derelict fishing gear and other items, which are prevalent from the ocean floor to the surface.
The five most common items tallied by the International Coastal Cleanup: plastic cigarette butts, plastic food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws.
NOAA defines it as "any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes. It is a global problem, and it is an everyday problem. There is no part of the world left untouched by debris and its impacts. Marine debris is a threat to our environment, navigation safety, the economy and human health."
Where does it come from? Basically, humans (visiting the beach, leaving litter by sewers and throwing trash off of fishing boats). But every person has the power and ability to prevent it. Preventing the trash from entering the ocean in the first place is a good step.
Watch this video for an introduction to marine debris, where it comes from and solutions:
Here's a look at winners from 2015, which were just announced for 2016 calendar. A finalist from Hawaii has been chosen since the contest started in 2010, originally in the isles, before it expanded nationwide.
Artwork by Claire, California. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.
Artwork by Madison, Hawaii. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.
Artwork by Gautham K., California. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.
Artwork by Elizabeth, Florida. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.
Artwork by Ryan, Michigan. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.
Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Surfrider Foundation demonstrated against the thicker plastic bags that Wal-Mart is handing out with a fashion show at noon Thursday. Photos by Cindy Ellen Russell.
The purpose was to raise awareness over the harm that stores like Wal-Mart create when handing out a thicker version of plastic bags to customers at checkout which, they say, defies the spirit of the plastic bag ban that went into effect on Oahu July 1.
"What we're trying to do is shine a light on the fact that a lot of our local retailers are still skirting the law when it comes to the plastic bag ban," said Sustainable Coastlines director Kahi Pacarro, donning a plastic bag tie.
The Honolulu version of the law contains a loophole which allows retailers to give customers reusable bags, which is defined as a "bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse." It can be made of cloth or other washable fabric or a "durable material suitable for reuse," which includes plastic that is at least 2.25 mils thick.
Wal-Mart is not the only one handing out the thicker plastic bags, which angered Anna Sabino and prompted her to start a change.org petition earlier this month. Longs Drugs, Times Supermarket, City Mill, Don Quijote, Tamura's, Thinker Toys and Chevron are culprits, too. However, Wal-Mart actually goes so far as to write the word "Sustainable" on its thicker, plastic bags, which is greenwashing at its finest.
While twirling and marching down the sidewalk, the demonstrators, which included kids dressed in plastic bag frocks, women in frilly, plastic skirts and a fully-decked-out plastic bag monster man, held signs to educate consumers about the harm that plastic bags cause.
They also handed out free, reusable canvas bags — part of a Bag A New Friendcampaign that Sustainable Coastlines is running. Here's how it works: When you go shopping, bring an extra bag or bags to give to others that may have forgotten theirs or others that don't have any. Post it to social media with #BagANewFriend.
Demonstrators were also giving out reusable bags in front of Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku Street on Thursday, part of Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's #BagANewFriend campaign.
The protestors' signs said:
>> "10 percent of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean." — United Nations Environment Programme.
>> "The average American family takes home 1,500 plastic bags a year." — Natural Resources Defense Council.
>> "About 2 million plastic bags are used every minute around the world." — Earth Policy Institute
While the thicker version of these plastic bags are available, they do as much harm to the environment as the thinner versions. They end up littering beaches and waterways, entering the ocean ecosystem and take even longer to break down. They may be reused a few more times than the thinner version, but are generally used only once.
Of the four isles (Kauai, Maui, Oahu and Hawaii island), only Oahu offers this loophole. Oahu's plastic bag ban also allows for compostable bags, even though there is no commercial composting facility on the isle.
The whole idea is really to reduce the amount of plastic.
The "plastic bag monster" participated in a demonstration in front of Wal-Mart Keeaumoku on Thursday. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.
The message of the demonstration was lost on Rose Pristow of Honolulu, who was sitting nearby. When she shops Wal-Mart, she takes the plastic bag for her purchases, which she had tucked into a reusable bag from Whole Foods Market. She takes the plastic bags to line her garbage cans at home, and does not see an issue with littering as long as she makes sure they go into the trash can.
"I'm for the environment, but I didn't understand what was going on," she said.
She was surprised to learn that some of the plastic bags end up at the beach.
Another shopper, Susan (declined to give last name), said she's been bringing her own bags since the ban went into place. On Thursday, she ended up buying more than she initially planned at Wal-Mart, so she used a few cardboard boxes to corral her purchases in the shopping cart, Costco-style. She keeps a bag full of other reusable bags ready in her car.
The majority of shoppers exiting Wal-Mart appear to take the thicker, plastic bags for their purchases, which are free, although a reusable bag is also available by the checkout stand for 50-cents. Many other retail stores, such as Safeway, are using paper bags while offering reusable bags for sale. Foodland offers customers who bring their own bags 5-cents credit per bag or Hawaiian Airlines miles. Some retailers, like Ross, will begin charging a fee for paper bags with handles, starting August.
Sure, the bay is beautiful, as are the sands — until, that is, you see the cigarette butts.
There they were over Memorial Day weekend, more than 12, all near the base of an ironwood tree. Someone, or some persons, apparently smoked a whole pack right there, leaving their butts in the sand, even though smoking has been banned at all city beaches and parks on Oahu.
Of course, there were cigarette butts also strewn along the naupaka planted at the top of the shoreline.
This is actually along one of the beach access points along the stretch of Waimanalo Beach, and not the one near the homeless encampment closer to the city's parking lot, lifeguard station and restrooms, which also need help.
Has Dr. Beach actually walked along Waimanalo Beach? I know he's aware of marine debris issues. The windward side of Oahu actually rakes in most of the debris from throughout the Pacific. This was documented by NOAA's aerial marine survey. Of the 176 debris sites recorded during the survey, 171 were on the windward side of islands. Kahuku has the most dense accumulation of debris, but the beaches of Waimanalo also get a good share of it.
Dr. Leatherman was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: "Cigarette butts are the number one form of litter on beaches – plastics in terms of volume but in terms of numbers it's cigarette butts — so I'm starting to give beaches extra credit for no smoking."
Well, Dr. Beach, marine debris is pretty much embedded all along the shoreline of Waimanalo Beach. Walk along the shoreline and you will see small bits of plastic — blue, light blue, white — itty, bitty pieces of plastic film (perhaps from shopping bags?), pieces of worn out string and pieces of straw embedded in the fine sand.
Look closely, and you will see it.
Once, standing at the shoreline, I watched as larger chunks of marine debris danced along the waves. Among them: what looked like corners of plastic boxes, a rice paddle and bottle caps. Eventually, the ocean spat these pieces out on to the shore — other pieces continued to dance in the waves.
On windy days, this is also a spot where you should watch out for stinging Portuguese man-o-wars.
As far as larger chunks of litter go, there was a water bottle, a forgotten baseball cap crusted with sand and half of a boogie board left on shore. So next time you visit Waimanalo Beach, pick up some of this debris or litter along the shoreline and help make it a better place. There's a non-profit called 808 Cleanupsthat encourages you to do so, and to post it to social media.
I think Dr. Beach should compile a list of the "Top 10 Beaches to Clean," and most certainly, Waimanalo Beach should be on it.
Schoolchildren, teachers and other members of the public had lined up in a V-shape along the shores of Rodeo Beach in Marin, Calif., to witness the release of two rescued sea lions by staff at The Marine Mammal Center.
Once released from their kennels, California sea lions Zeno and Shackle, did not linger or hesitate. They shuffled quickly along the sand, making a beeline for the ocean. As they entered the water together, a smattering of applause came from the audience.
Then we watched in delight, as their two heads bobbed in the waves. It was a beautiful sight.
Zeno and Shackle head out to their ocean home after being rescued and released by The Marine Mammal Center at Rodeo Beach in Marin, Calif. The two seals were rescued from the Santa Cruz and Monterey area.
Beautiful, because these wild mammals are returning to their natural habitat, where they should be. Beautiful, because they were being given a second chance — humans may have created the problems that hindered them, but humans can also be part of the solution.
What the audience may not have known is how much work it took to get the wild sea lions into the kennel, weighed on a scale, then carefully loaded onto a pickup truck and carted across the sand for the release. Staff and volunteers at the center all played a vital role.
The release was also a small, uplifting celebration in the midst of a sea lion crisis. For the third year in a row, sea lion pups are stranding along the California coastline in record numbers. While the center usually houses about 10 sea lion pups, it was taking care of nearly 100. TIME Magazine on Feb. 18 explored whether the strandings could be caused by rising ocean temperatures impacting the diet of sea lions (squid, anchovies, mackerel).
"We call sea lions sentinels of the sea," said MMC communications curator Sarah van Scagen. "What's going on with them can tell us a lot about the oceans as a whole."
Zeno, a female California sea lion, was rescued from Santa Cruz in January. She was behaving abnormally for a sea lion, and rescuers who picked her up confirmed she was suffering from domoic acid toxicity. Domoic acid, produced by algae, accumulates in shellfish, sardines and anchovies, which in turn, are consumed by sea lions. The biotoxin affects the brain, causing lethargy and disorientation. It can also affect people, so the center gives the health department a heads up when it discovers a case like Zeno's.
For Shackle, a male California sea lion picked up from Monterey, the problem was simpler – he had been entangled with a fishing net around his neck that left a scar. But luckily, once the net was removed, he quickly regained weight and was ready to be released.
Releasing two sea lions together is ideal, according to van Schagen, because they can keep one another company. Sea lions are, by nature, social animals.
That seemed apparent — the pair seemed as if they were immediately bonded as they headed into the waves.
TMMC, founded in 1975, is the non-profit that recently celebrated the grand opening of Ke Kai Ola (The Healing Sea), the first monk seal hospital at NELHA in Kona, in September. With more than $3.2 million raised in funds, TMMC was able to build four pens with pools – two for juvenile and adult seals and two for pups, along with a fish kitchen, medical lab and seawater filtration infrastructure for the pools.
Ke Kai Ola's first patients were four young, malnourished monk seals — Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala — from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They were admitted in July, and released (nice and fat again) on Aug. 31. The center's current patients are Meleana and Pua, also from the NWHI, who were admitted as malnourished pups in September. Hopefully, they'll be released soon, too.
Sea lions Zeno and Shackle, are released and ready to head back to their ocean home.
Boobie bird at Palmyra Atoll, to be featured in the "Oceans" segment of PBS Hawaii's "Earth A New Wild" airing Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 10 p.m. Photo courtesy of Dave Allen.
From baby pandas in China to humpback whales in Alaska and reef sharks at Palmyra Atoll, Dr. M. Sanjayan, a leading conservation scientist, explores humankind's relationship to the planet's wildest places.
"Earth A New Wild,"produced by National Geographic Studios in association with Passion Planet, premieres "Oceans" on PBS Hawaii (KHET) at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 18. A preview of the film was screened at ProtoHub Honolulu by The Nature Conservancy and PBS Hawaii last Thursday. The team visits 29 different countries, capturing spectacular natural history footage — what distinguishes this series from other nature films is that this time, humans are in the picture.
Episodes One (Home), Two (Plains) and Three (Forests) have already aired, starting Feb. 4, but are available onlineand scheduled for encores for the rest of February.
The "Oceans" segment (preview here)has many messages relevant to Hawaii — overfishing, coastal pollution, climate change and sea level rise, not to mention the growing "rise of slime."
It opens with scenes from Palmyra atoll, a national marine monument located 1,000 miles south of Hawaii which gives us an idea what an untouched ecosystem still looks like. It's a place where the top predators, sharks, are still thriving abudantly over a healthy coral reef. It was once considered a part of the Territory of Hawaii, then became an unincorporated U.S. territory and was occupied by the U.S. military during World War II. Today it is owned and managed as a nature preserve by The Nature Conservancy.
Sanjayan looks at potential causes as well as solutions to this rise of slime in the ocean, including a revival of oysters, which play a vital role in cleaning up the waters around Manhattan.
It's clear that Sanjayan, who has spent 25 years in conservation, has a passion for nature and animals — he travels to the edge of the Earth, plunges into the ocean, parachutes in the air, hangs out with Dr. Jane Goodall and chimpanzees, and cuddles with baby pandas. Watch the live birth of a lemon shark.
Dr. Jane Goodall reveals her plan for ways for village dwellers to coexist with the wild chimpanzees through the planting of "wildlife corridors" — corridors of trees at the edge of farmers' lands so that the chimpanzees have a way to travel and inter-breed with one another.
At every frontier, he discovers how much humans and wildlife need each other to survive. The question nowadays is how do we coexist?
Says Sanjayan: "Now, my mission is to tell you an untold story, where we humans are not separate from nature. We are part of it."
Dr. Sanjayan with a panda in the bamboo forests of China. Photo courtesy of Ami Vitale.
The winner was a two-level screen sifter designed by Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks that offered an educational message while separating out microplastics from the sand. Second place went to photographer Ken G. Kosada and third place to surfer and beach cleanup volunteer Harrison Piho. Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks plans to use the $2,500 cash prize (presented by solar company Revolusun) to enhance their educational facility and fund their island restoration projects. And, they decided to give $300 to Kosada and $200 to Piho.
As for the winner, they get another $2,500 to replicate several of their sand sifters for use by volunteer organizations.
There was creativity, ingenuity and enthusiasm, but most of all, there was one goal in common — to figure out how to get these microplastics, pieces of plastics broken down by ultraviolet rays, out of the sand and out of the ocean.
Kailua, a five-mile stretch of fine, white sand, is often named as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It's the one that President Barack Obama once jogged on in his bare feet (before he was elected president). And yet, look closely near the high tide waterline, and you will see microplastic debris in that fine, white sand.
Saturday's event was an all-family affair, with plenty of enthusiastic students. Several teams from Punahou School (aspiring engineers from 7th to 10th grade), as well as a team of fifth and sixth-graders from Ho‘ala School in Wahiawa and a student from Kamakau Charter School who created a sand sifter for extra credit, were out demonstrating with their designs.
Ho‘ala School science, math and service teacher Maggie Pulver was able to teach several lessons at once while her students — Ian Shelton, Storey Welch and Christian Ward — designed and put their sand sifter to the test.
Ken Kosada, 2nd place winner, Ultimate Sand Sifter contest, created a spinning device out of recycled items.
The designs were as simple as reused tubes, bucket and jars to more elaborate, spinning bins made from recycled bicycle rims and refurbished wood pallets. They had to be human-powered, without the use of fossil fuels, and designed and built for no more than $300.
Second-place winner Ken Kosada is already tweaking his design in preparation for the 10th annual Da Hui North Shore Clean-Upthis Saturday (Nov. 22) at Turtle Bay Resort.
Piho, a regular beach cleanup volunteer and avid surfer from Wahiawa, had one of my favorite designs — a double baby stroller frame plus shoe rack that he found on the sidewalk left out for bulky curbside pickup. He said his design was mobile, and that you could push it across the beach, sifting debris out of the sand. He used simple twist-ties to assemble his sand sifter together.
Third-place finalist Harrison Piho with his mobile, repurposed double stroller sand sifter design.