How to slow plastic pollution through acts of service, influence and education across the Hawaiian Islands

By Kahi Pacarro

Going on 6 years now, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii has been taking plastics washing ashore and turning it into a valuable commodity. Seeing value in waste is an ethos within our organization and to date, through collaborative efforts, we’ve sent 222,283 pounds of Ocean Plastic to be recycled.

Our Ocean Plastic endeavors started in late 2010 after picking up tons of plastic and feeling guilt in burning it at H-Power. Method, a company whose products probably adorn your kitchen or bathroom sinks, makes eco-friendly cleaning products and packages them in cool-looking bottles made from recycled plastic. Method took our Ocean Plastic and recycled it into a limited edition soap bottle and in the dawn of the plastic pollution revolution, they set the bar from a corporate standpoint. The goal was to show that if they could use Ocean Plastic in their supply chain, other companies should at least be able use recycled plastic. Method focused on reducing and eventually eliminating virgin plastics in their packaging and the success led to their company being purchased in 2013 by a large conglomerate, but it also meant the eventual phase out of our Ocean Plastic Program partnership.

Fast forward to 2017 and our Ocean Plastics Program has evolved into a collaboration with a brand named Parley for the Oceans. We’ve been working with Parley since 2013 and hold the distinction of being their first collaborator. The relationship is simple: we have tons of Ocean Plastic that we don’t want to put into the landfill or incinerator and they have clients that want to use the Ocean Plastic. We give them the Ocean Plastic and they help fund our organization through grant programs along with giving us access to a network of influencers.

The access to influencers allows us to show them what is happening to Hawaii’s beaches. We show the degradation as a result of Industry’s overproduction and the consumers over consumption. The collaboration has allowed us to speak directly with heads of big brands like Adidas, Corona, and In-Bev. We believe if you can change the culture of a brand, you can change their products. The proof is in the pudding. Adidas has replaced millions of pounds of virgin plastics in their supply chain in favor of recycled plastic. They have reduced packaging and eliminated plastic bags from all their branded stores. They are making over a million pairs of shoes out of Ocean Plastic recovered from a recycling program in the Maldives and a giant gill net collected by Sea Shepherd.

Now Corona is on the stage and their recent launch to keep 100 islands protected through education and beach cleanups is a commitment that will sustain beyond their investment. A recent work surf trip took us to the Maldives where we educated people such as Chris Hemsworth (who played Thor), Ramon Navarro, Greg Long, Diego Luna, MIA, Nashla Bogaert, Anja Rubik, Maryna Linchuk, and Juana Burga.

Being able to influence the influential means pushing the needle towards the plastic awakening. It means people realizing that their actions are affecting our beaches regardless of where they’re living. Just like the butterfly fluttering its wings and initiating a hurricane that happens thousands of miles away, our actions are having an effect.

Let’s make it easier for brands – including those in the surf industry – to do the right thing by demanding quality, value, long lasting, good design and less waste.

The Ocean Plastic has not slowed arriving to our shores; in fact, it’s increased. We see you out there helping not only through becoming better consumers, but through actually cleaning up the beaches. Hat’s off to you, anonymous beach cleaner. We now have the ability to include you in this Ocean Plastic collaboration.

We have set up a statewide network of groups that are cleaning our beaches and collecting recyclable Ocean Plastic. You can now join them in their cleanup efforts along with save the Ocean Plastic you find when doing your own cleanups to deliver to our partners. This is especially relevant on neighbor islands where landfills are near capacity and there is no incinerator. Our Ocean Plastics recycling program gets the debris off the island, keeps it out of the landfill and rebirths it into valuable products.

On Hawaii Island you can contact Hawaii Wildlife Fund. On Maui you can contact Sharkastics, Hawaii Wildlife Fund, and Surfrider. On Molokai you can contact the Nature Conservancy. On Lanai you can contact Pulama Lanai. On Oahu you can contact us, Surfrider, Kokua Hawaii Foundation, or 808 Cleanups. On Kauai you can contact Surfrider or the B-Rad Foundation. More information is available on our website at sustainablecoastlineshawaii.com under the Ocean Plastics tab.

Kahi Pacarro is the Executive Director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

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