Hawaii is known for its exquisite beaches, gorgeous foliage, beautiful ocean waters...and its trash. Sadly, one of the dirtiest beaches in the world is located in none other than the heavenly big island of Hawaii. Kamilo Point, in the rural district of Ka'u, despite its lava rocks and tide pools, looks like a cesspool. Thousands of pounds of man-made trash, much of which is plastic, is brought by the ocean's churning currents to this beach every year. Because of this fact, it's often referred to as Plastic Beach. Doesn't have quite the same ring as Glass Beach, does it?
I've written about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch before and Plastic Beach is a direct recipient of this very trash. However, the garbage patch is not simply a swirling mass of trash (although there definitely ARE whole pieces of trash in the ocean), but rather it's primarily plastic that has broken down into microbeads, leaving a dangerous mass of microscopic plastic pieces that poison ocean life and pollute the earth. It's often likened to a "soup of pollution." And because Kamilo Point has consistent offshore winds, the plastic microbeads (and general trash) make their way directly to its shores. Experts say that if you grab a handful of sand at Kamilo Point, the majority of what will be in your hand is actually plastic microbeads, not sand at all.
Local organizations have led beach clean-ups at Kamilo Point for years, but time and again the trash just makes its way right back to the beach. The bottom line is beach clean-ups, while well-intended, are not going to make a dent in this trash problem. The only way we are ever going to begin to solve the ocean garbage problem is by steeply curbing or completely eliminating our use of plastic. We human beings have the health of our oceans, and our world as a whole, in our hands. Nobody NEEDS single-use plastic. So let's all work together to make the changes we want to see in the world...if for no other reason than, for Pete's sake, to keep (make?) Hawaii beautiful.