The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Oscar Elton Sette was weighed down by 50 metric tons of ocean debris when it came back to port in Honolulu earlier this July. The mammoth ocean trash clean-up effort by 17 scientists took a month to complete, and when they were done, the ship was full to capacity.
The sad truth is that there is yet more trash in the ocean off of Hawaiian coasts.
“The ship was at maximum capacity and we did not have any space for more debris,” commented Kyle Koyanagi, marine debris operations manager for the program.
The NOAA has been working to clean up oceanic plastic islands for many years. So far they’ve collected 700 metric tons of debris from Hawaiian waters alone, and there’s yet more to be scooped up. The trash in the ocean gets there when consumers and businesses handle their trash inappropriately.
The good news is that once the debris is removed from the ocean, the NOAA team ensures that it is handled properly by recycling or reusing it, or turning it over to waste-to-energy facilities that create electricity. Here are two programs they support with the marine debris they collect:
Since 2002, the Nets to Energy Program, for instance, has generated the electricity equivalent to that used by 350 Hawaii homes for a year.
Yet while it’s important to put ocean trash to good use, preventing waste from landing in our oceans is much more environmentally responsible.
Preserving the resilience and vitality of our oceans is a primary concern for us at Hearts. It’s one of the reasons we choose biodegradable, raw, upcycled, and recycled materials and processes for our eco fashion!
Quick Guide: What is Marine Debris and What Items are Collected by the NOAA
- Fishing industry debris: Derelict fishing gear like line, nets, ropes, bait boxes, trawl floats, and fish tags.
- Land based residential waste: This can be intentional or inadvertent waste that ends up at sea, including toothbrushes, syringes, broken glass, hazardous items, trash bags, and cigarettes, to name a few.
- Boating related waste: Recreational boaters may dispose of trash like oil lube bottles, tarps, engine parts, and cleaning equipment.
- Oil and gas industry debris: The exploration industry may inappropriately handle items that end up in the sea, such as hard hats, tarps, computer equipment, and survey materials.
Green Actions to Reduce Your Contribution to the Ocean Trash Problem
- Prevent trash from ending up in the ocean! Check out these NOAA resources: How People Can Prevent Marine Debris While On Land and How Recreational Boaters and Marina Owners Can Prevent Marine Debris.
- Get involved in a coastal clean-up day! Volunteer for the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) program or start a Community Beach Cleanup of your own.
- Use the Marine Debris Tracker mobile application to alert the NOAA when you see trash on your coastlines and waterways.
Go Deeper – Learn More About Marine Trash and Its Impact on the Environment
- Find out more about what is being done to clean our oceans of plastic debris via the NOAA Marine Debris Projects page.
- Learn more about the tragic consequences of marine debris, including habitat damage, wildlife entanglement, ingestion, ghost fishing, and more.