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14 Tons of Ocean Debris Taken to Waikoloa Landfill

May 8, 2021, 5:14 PM HST
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Two years worth of collected ocean debris was taken to the Waikoloa landfill over the past two weekends by volunteers with the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund (HWF).

Courtesy of Hawai’i Wildlife Fund

According to HWF, 14.4 tons, or 28,800 pounds, of derelict fishing net and line bundles were dumped. The derelict fishing gear (DFG) was being stored at Waiʻōhinu transfer station, however, it needed to be relocated as Hawai‘i County staff prepared for construction repairs to the Nā‘ālehu facility.

“While some might think this is a step in the wrong direction to bury marine debris (plastic pollution), with help from a local carbon offsetting business in Captain Cook, CarbonBuddy, we have learned that less global climate-changing heat and greenhouse gases “GHG” are emitted by landfilling plastic than through incineration,” HWF stated in a press release. “Plastics mostly are derived from oil and the carbon held in plastics must be sequestered back into the ground and not transformed through the use of additional energy to make a new product that will eventually degrade and be disposed of.”

Dumping debris in landfills is not common practice. Since 2005, HWF has been diverting DFG from the landfill using the Hawai‘i Nets-to-Energy Program arranged by NOAA.

This collaborative program works with local businesses including Matson’s Ka Ipu ‘Āina (container for the land) program, Schnitzer Steel, Pier 38 (POPS Marine) and Covanta (HPOWER), NOAA and local nonprofits to generate electricity for the city and County of Honolulu. 

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To date, HWF has moved 13 containers full, weighing 215,036 pounds, of DFG to O‘ahu, creating enough energy to power about 46 households for a year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Matson’s Ka Ipu ‘Āina program to put their efforts temporarily on hold.

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HWF says they recognize that both the Nets-to-Energy program and landfilling options are temporary solutions to the climate crisis and hope that with science and innovation these DFG items that continue to wash ashore from across the Pacific can be repurposed in the future for various art installations, agriculture, upcycling, and construction initiatives around the island.

Funding to conduct marine debris removal activities is made possible due to a 2018 NOAA Marine Debris Program grant to HWF that ends this September 2021. Support has also been provided over the years from Matson, Ke Kai Ala Foundation (Kona Brewers Festivals), and individual donors.

Since 2003, HWF and volunteers have removed over 300 tons of marine debris from the shores of Hawai‘i Island and these DFG bundles are about half of the total weight collected. The vast majority of these net and line bundles are coming from commercial fishing industries outside of Hawai‘i. Despite that, HWF says everyone can all do their part locally to reduce the amount of single-use plastics, pick up monofilament lines and hooks along the coastline and in nearshore waters, and by eating locally and striving toward zero-waste lifestyles.

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About 95% of the total debris recovered over the past years was from the Kaʻū District, but marine debris has also been removed from Kona, Kohala, Hilo, and Puna shorelines.

Partnering with local DLNR agencies including DOBOR (Boating and Ocean Recreation) and DAR (Aquatic Resources), derelict fishing line and net drop-off bins are also available outside the DAR offices in Kona (at Honokōhau harbor) and in Hilo within the DAR Wailoa Fisheries Research Station.

Anyone interested in getting involved or learn more about DFG collection, click here. To report large debris or DFG bundles along the coastline, call the HWF Hawai‘i Island Marine Debris Hotline at 808-769-7629. 

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