A Playground Among the Wreckage

Featuring Sustainable Coastlines Hawai’i


Beach cleanup with the crew, photo by Kathleen Page

Plastic is not on a schedule.

It does not have a watch or a calendar.

The wash up of plastic marine debris on beaches in many places including Hawai’i is unrelenting, and occurs during every season and time of day. Plastic in the oceans and on our beaches has an irreversible, highly detrimental, and even deathly impact on marine life (Want some food for thought? Watch this video on the death of seabirds on Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), as well as compromises the beauty of our beaches.

A nonprofit organization by the name of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii began officially capitalizing on the occurrence of marine debris wash up in February of 2011. Since then, not only have they recycled 27,500 pounds of plastic but also have been actively joining hands with the community to spread awareness and create a positive domino effect.

I had the opportunity to get together with a Sustainable Coastlines board member, Jason Hills. We met up on the beach right out front of his house and sifted some sand while we chatted. (Kailua Beach on Oahu) It was amazing to hear about his journey with the company and to see first hand how much plastic can be collected in a small time of sifting. He was born and raised in Hawai’i and told me he has watched the influx of plastics on the local beaches increase over time;


Meghan: “What is your biggest motivation for your work with Sustainable Coastlines?”


Jason: “I started noticing all this plastic, and I grew up right here on this beach (Kailua Beach, Oahu) so this became sort of like my personal hotspot. We noticed we could pick up 30 pieces of micro-plastic in one scoop of sand and it was hard to watch it happen and watch it come in every morning and all day long. You know for me it was more about keeping this beach clean, to begin with. Now really it’s more about the message because you can see how much we have gotten here in what, ten minutes?

We know that were not really making a huge dent in this problem but, when you are out here with these sifters, you get endless traffic of people walking by and they come and talk to you, ask you what you are looking for, and you explain what micro-plastic is and how it gets here from the gyres and hopefully you can sort of convince people to sort of change their habits with regards to their plastic use.”

Photo by: Jason Hills (Kailua Beach, Oahu)
Micro-plastics after ~40 min. collection














The most direct way that this nonprofit organization addresses the issue at hand is by community beach clean ups. Since their beginnings five years ago, they have had over 17,400 event participants (and counting!) in total. The plastic collected from these events includes almost anything you can imagine! The most common items range from bottle caps to food wrappers to polystyrene foam. They even find action figures, toothbrushes, and lawn chairs!

Post collection, the plastics are recycled to make bottles for eco-friendly cleaning products made by a company by the name of Method. They partnered with Envision Plastics, who receives the collected plastic in a compressed bale form, which they have to break up, send through a chipper, and wash using various different pieces of equipment. The plastics can then be sorted into groupings based on 40 million different shades and colors! These plastics are then extruded into long tubes like hot dogs and chopped up into a uniform sized pellet, which can then be used to create bottles (more on the process here: https://youtu.be/MyOgG9HCM4A). Also Bureo Skateboards has additionally been utilizing the plastics to create skateboard decks.

The organizations profound love for Hawai’i’s beaches and desire to make a change is overwhelming. When the organization isn’t hosting their own beach clean ups, they are encouraging those in the community to have DIY initiatives. In partnership with Parley awareness is spread through collaboration of musicians, artists, actors, journalists, architects, product investors and scientists they are attempting to mold the minds of the public. The organization set out to create an aura of awareness and a movement of change, both, which are gaining more and more momentum.

The members of Sustainable Coastlines Hawai’i strive to educate the public and to lead by example. It is important to make a conscious effort to reduce one-time plastic products where you can (water bottles, plastic utensils, etc.) Here a few quick and easy ways to get you started on reducing your personal plastic use;

  • Bring your own shopping bag
  • Avoid buying bottled water
  • Say no to straws and pack your own utensils
  • Avoid face wash and toothpaste containing micro beads (anything with the name “polyethylene” and “polypropylene” in the ingredients list)
  • Buy reusable razors
  • Shop in bulk
  • Invest in some glass Tupperware (mason jars are even better)
  • For Surfers check out our “Real Guide to Eco-Friendly Surfing

The most recent Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii event was on February 27th, 2016 at Kahuku beach (North Shore, Oahu). Kahuku beach has the nickname “Oahu’s dirtiest beach” and it definitely lives up to its name!

The crew removed close to 10,000 pounds of debris in about three hours and filled this entire silo bag full of recyclable plastic! Check out this picture of Jason’s daughter, Carver. Is this what the future holds for the generations to come? A playground among the wreckage?


Photo by: Jason Hills (Kailua Beach, Oahu)
Silo Bag full of recyclable plastics










Next event is on Earth Day. Get involved!


Author: Meghan Cooley



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