The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
September 22, 2013

Shocking Pictures from Coastal Cleanup Day


I’ve seen this picture of Kamilo Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii a million times in the past six years. It’s shocking. But not as shocking as seeing a plastic-covered beach up close live and in person like I did yesterday during Kokua Hawai’i Foundation’s Coastal Cleanup Day event at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Oahu.

When I first entered the area, I didn’t see much…


Then I looked down and started noticing microplastic particles in the sand…


And then more microplastic. I started to become a little obsessed with it…


Until I looked up finally and was astounded to see this…



There were just a few new items of trash mixed in with this ancient debris, possibly  left by a careless visitor to the preserve.


Most of this plastic had been out at sea a long time before washing up on this beach. It came from far away and has been slowly breaking down into fragments by wind, waves, sun.  Some of it partially eaten by sharks.  But it never actually goes away.



It was too much to comprehend, so I went back to concentrating on the little tiny pieces.


And even tinier pieces…


I worked with one of the kids to collect a sample to bring home.



Some people go to Hawaii and bring back shells. Here is my souvenir.


I’m grateful for the work of the Kokua Hawai’i Foundation, which was founded by musician Jack Johnson and his wife Kim to support environmental education in the schools and communities of Hawaii, including work on reducing plastic waste and plastic consumption.


Friday night, it was my privilege to give a talk during Kokua’s Coastal Cleanup Kick Off Event… In the same school my mom taught in in 1964 before I was born!


She loved this island and so do I.  I hope I can continue to help reduce the damage from plastic pollution.

15 Responses to “Shocking Pictures from Coastal Cleanup Day”

  1. BethTerry says:

    @CindyFrancine DianeN56 GroovyGrapevine ItStartsWith_Me PlasticfreeBeth  This plastic comes from out in the ocean and washes up on the shore.  It’s not that there are so many people littering at that beach, but it’s accumulated from all the plastic that runs off land… from the U.S., Japan, etc.

  2. CindyFrancine says:

    DianeN56 GroovyGrapevine ItStartsWith_Me PlasticfreeBeth i cannot believe people litter like this! Here i always c diapers, Terrible

  3. Marea Foster says:

    Feel so sad and shocked and angered to see the photos. Its great that there are people beginning to take action though.  Its great that you could be there and educate and inspire people.  I know the feeling trying to pick up microplastics in the sand – it never ends.

  4. Sharon Jacobsen says:

    I never knew the problem was this out of control!!!

  5. Sharon Jacobsen says:

    wow…just did a google search on plastic in the ocean…. a quote from one page: The Marine Conservancy has published that the estimated decomposition rates of most plastic debris found on coasts are:
    Foamed plastic cups: 50 years
    Plastic beverage holder: 400 years
    Disposable diapers: 450 year
    Plastic bottle: 450
    Fishing line: 600 years.

  6. Beth Terry says:

    On Oahu, it gets burned. And then there is toxic ash to deal with. But better than having it wash back into the ocean. Marcus Eriksen says, “If you want to clean the ocean, clean your beach.” Also, these beach cleanups are mostly about awareness for the volunteers who show up to do them. It’s important for them to see the problem for themselves.

  7. elizabeth beaumont says:

    I absolutely support your efforts well done , dont give up it is important work just keep fighting

  8. Clif says:

    I’ve always thought of filters being used to keep debris from getting into the natural water supply.
    It’s proof of how bad things have become that now it would make sense to have filters to keep debris in the natural water supply (the ocean) from coming on to the beaches.
    BTW – I happened across and excellent <a href=””>National Geographic video</a> about the huge landfill used for the LA area called Puente Hills. Everyone who throws anything in the trash (don’t we all?) should take a look.

  9. Sharon Jacobsen says:

    but….where does all the plastic that never goes away GO after you pick it up????

  10. Kate Dillon says:

    went with my grand daughter to an east side beach a few years ago with the idea of making christmas ornaments from trash…was not prepared for the enormous amount of plastic and other refuse. I had lived in Hi. 10 years previously and rarely saw plastic on the beaches. It is stunning how much of it there is now! Kudos to Kokua Fndn.

  11. KatherinEdwards says:

    Blessings on you Beth for educating us and cleaning up the plastic.. Oh how I wish I could be there helping. It’s so distressing to see this in the islands, or anywhere. Keep up the excellent work. You do make a  huge difference.

  12. Suzanne Meyer says:

    Beth, the photos are so depressing, we have to be the change.

  13. BethTerry says:

    @Winona Sadly, this kind of plastic has been washing up long before the tsunami.

  14. Winona says:

    I wonder how much of that is debris from the tsunami in Japan a few years ago?  But I do agree.  We need to get away from plastic.  It is bad.  Human kind lived hundreds of years without it and did just fine.  Why do we have such a dependence on it now? This inspires me to do and be better.