Prediction: More plastic is coming

LIHUE — A 40 percent rise in plastic production is on the horizon, according to the American Chemistry Council, and that presents a big problem for little islands like Kauai, conservationists say.

For instance, the South Pacific’s uninhabited Henderson Island landed in the spotlight in June with its plastic-peppered shores that totaled 18 tons of debris.

Closer to home, the oceanic garbage soup we know as the Great Pacific Gyre has strewn Midway Atoll’s shores with plastic debris — so much so that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hosted cleanup efforts there in 2016.

Buoys, floats, bins, baskets, bottles, spoons, lighters and fishing gear are the mainstays on Kauai’s coastlines, according to beach-cleanup organizations, and they all have plastic components.

“We aren’t inundated with plastic bottles like some of the Third World countries,” said Scott McCubbins of Kauai Surfrider’s Net Patrol. “I truly believe that most of our plastic is from the commercial fishing industry.”

Commercial fishing nets are made from polypropylene, a plastic product, McCubbins pointed out.

The amount of plastic in production is set to nearly double in the next 10 years, according to the American Chemistry Council, which cited $186 billion invested into 318 new facility projects since 2010 — all in the name of shale gas.

Those new facilities are posed to convert shale gas into plastics. Half of them have been completed.

Meanwhile, a separate study by the American Chemistry Council, released in December, shows plastic recycling rates in America are below 30 percent, about 2 percent lower than the previous year.

The Great Pacific Gyre spits out most of that marine debris that’s landing on Kauai, said Mark Manuel, Pacific Islands marine debris regional coordinator for NOAA — especially the derelict fishing gear.

Manuel said the general make-up of the majority of the derelict nets points to a source outside the longline industry around Hawaiian waters.

“From all accounts, the data shows the majority … aren’t from a local source,” he said. “We don’t know what fishery type or region. It’s difficult to define.”

Kauai Surfrider volunteers alone garnered more than 91,000 pounds of debris from the island’s shores in 2017, and the organization estimates around 20 percent of the weight and 40 percent of the volume of their debris is plastic.

Much of the cleanup efforts by 808 Cleanups and Net Patrol target larger pieces of marine debris.

It’s a way to remove as much plastic as possible from the beaches before it breaks down into the microplastic that’s infiltrating birds, fish and other components of the island’s ecosystem.

“Plastics of all sizes are harmful to marine organisms,” said Carl Berg, ecologist with Kauai Surfrider. “Large ropes and nets entangle whales, while micro-plastics get eaten by zooplankton and corals.”

In 2016, 2,906 million pounds of plastic bottles were collected for recycling, a 71-million-pound dip from 2015. In 2016, the recycling rate was 29.7 percent — a decrease of 1.4 percentage points compared to 2015, according to the American Chemistry Council.

With a potential 40 percent rise in plastic production looming in the next decade, conservationists say now is the time for consumers to put their proverbial feet down.

“One thing people can do is not drink out of single-use plastic bottles,” McCubbins said.

Berg said that’s the number-one suggestion in his book as well.

“No plastic bags. No Styrofoam,” he said.

  1. jks December 30, 2017 6:46 am Reply

    40% more plastic? As usual more falsehoods feeding the free floating anxiety which fills the bubbling pots of ignorance on Kauai.
    I looked online for ACC references to a “40% increase” and found an ACC report from 2015 saying US plastic-related employment would be up 20% over the next decade–mostly at the expense of foreign producers, not as a result of net worldwide increases.
    Try read —

  2. jks December 30, 2017 6:53 am Reply

    Ah here is where the 40% comes from — environmental activists quoted in the Guardian who are just as hysterical as you are — not the ACC.

  3. JOSE E BULATAO December 30, 2017 8:44 am Reply

    Being a part of a fleet of islands anchored in the midst of the Pacific Ocean, we are being VICTIMIZED by the onslaught of waste articles piling up and floating in massive amounts to our shorelines throughout the Hawaiian Islands! How can we prevent this from intensifying so relentlessly as it is occurring? The values and traditions to “malama aina” (to protect and preserve the finite resources of our environment) need to be prioritized and carefully monitored! Collaborative endeavors from the public and private sectors need to be coordinated. Educational systems and media outlets need to promote awareness and encourage participation in the effort to maintain guidelines. Let’s all pitch in to be a part of the solution and not wait for “others” to solve the problem. We’re in this together!

  4. Charlie Chimknee December 30, 2017 9:09 am Reply

    Where the article mentions shale gas it really mean shale petroleum, petroleum or oil found in shale, that they referto as shale gas. When they are talking about 40% increase in plastic production from petroleum (oil).

    What goes along with that demand due to increase in world population and thus the customers of plastics is also the demand for more medicines that are also made from petroleum.

    Ingested petroleum products are carcinogenic which means they are cancer causing for humans and other living creatures perhaps even for micro-organisms like zooplankton and corals, though their “demise by plastic” may not be called cancer it still disrupts the biologic processes thatbterminateblife just as cancers do to humans.

    Cancerous cell mutations or gene or DNA mutations caused by pseudo modern science going for profits is all the same…it disrupts what some call God, Mother Nature, or the Intelligence of the Universe, all being the same and having organized our earth and and perpetuated all life on earth without toxic degeneration to the environment.

    Pseudo science is that which disregards the long term effects and side effects of what the pseudo scientists are doing so long as their is profit, pride, arrogance, and the ability to turn their backs on the long term misery they are creating.

    Food, medicine, and plastic manufacturers, amongst others, have hardened themselves against known negative outcomes.

    At some point society may understand that negligent profiteers wreak more havoc and harm than terrorists. Will governments or the United Nations have a Committe Responsible to Earth that will sanction or halt the harm to our planet, ourselves, and our fellow earth organisms and creatures.

    It seems that government entities have not matured enough to prevent our collective demise or slow accumulating destruction !

    Mahalo for reading,


  5. MisterM December 30, 2017 8:18 pm Reply

    Styrofoam and plastic bags need to be banned world-wide.

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