Greenpeace returned to Honolulu from Kahoolawe on Wednesday afternoon with a large haul of marine debris.
Over the weekend, members of the independent environmental organization traveled to Kahoolawe aboard the Arctic Sunrise ship and participated in a beach-cleaning expedition with Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana and Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission. As part of the effort, they conducted a brand audit to identify the corporations most responsible for single- use plastic pollution in the region.
The crew brought back an estimated 2.5 tons of debris, most of which will be donated to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for repurposing into consumer goods, said Greenpeace, or disposed of in accordance with county waste regulations.
“The amount of plastic pollution washing up on the shores of an uninhabited place like Kahoolawe is absolutely staggering,” said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Kate Melges in a news release. “It is a sacred place, free of commercial uses and set aside for Native Hawaiian purposes, yet corporations’ single-use plastic footprints are still found there. It shouldn’t be up to the people of Hawaii to clean up this mess.”
Kao Corp., Coca-Cola and Nestle topped the list of brands found on beverage containers, bottle caps, toothbrushes, soap and shampoo bottles, and household cleaning product packaging cleaned from the isle. Unilever, PepsiCo, Procter &Gamble, Colgate- Palmolive and Johnson &Johnson were also found among the marine debris at Kahoolawe.
The majority of plastic found there, however, was in the form of tiny microplastics that could not be easily cleaned up. The crew also found a significant amount of discarded commercial fishing gear, including crates, buoys, fish traps and nets.
Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise first arrived in Honolulu on Oct. 11, following a journey through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There, the crew said, it found 11 times more microplastics in the middle of the Pacific than near major U.S. cities. Kao and Coca-Cola were also the top brands found there.
While commercial uses are prohibited on Kahoolawe, plastic packaging from corporations still reaches its shores.
“Our sacred island of Kahoolawe has been abused over the years in so many ways,” said Lopaka Aiwohi with the Protect Kaho‘olawe Ohana in statement. “The military bombing has stopped, but the island shores are constantly bombarded by ocean plastic pollution. The disastrous effects are taking a great toll on ocean marine life. We must all work together to protect our sacred places and the marine life on this planet we call home.”
As part of its awareness campaign, Greenpeace is demanding the world’s largest corporations take responsibility for plastic pollution by producing less or finding alternative delivery systems. Greenpeace said some companies, like Aramark and Sodexo, have begun taking steps toward reducing single-use plastics.
The Arctic Sunrise will be in Hawaii through the end of the month, and is open for free, public tours at Pier 12 (79 S. Nimitz Highway) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.