LIHUE — The United States Senate unanimously passed an act that will help coastal cleanup efforts and waste management, aiming to reduce the amount of marine debris collecting on American shores.
Save Our Seas 2.0 Act was introduced by a group including Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, who made art with marine debris collected from Kauai with students at Kahaleo School in April.
That art was used as signage for the recycling area at Kalaheo School and showcased the types of debris taken from the beaches on Kauai. The goal was to increase recycling at the school and create recycling awareness in the community.
While at the school, Hirono talked about the importance of keeping trash out of the ocean, a topic she reiterated in a Tuesday release announcing the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act.
“We must address this global crisis immediately to protect the health of Hawaii’s avian and marine life, including corals, fish, humpback whales, sea turtles, and monk seals,” Hirono said in the release.
The bill creates a foundation to respond to debris, a prize for innovation, enhances international cooperation on marine debris, boosts domestic infrastructure to prevent debris from entering the environment, and authorizes studies on waste management and mitigation. The legislation passed the Senate last week.
Every year volunteers clean thousands of pounds of plastic, debris and nets from Kauai shorelines and stack most of it up at a still-developing recycling center at Restore Kauai.
In the first six months of 2018, for instance, volunteers with Surfrider Foundation’s cleanups alone pulled 15,000 pounds of plastic and debris from Kauai beaches.
Other groups, like the B-Rad Foundation, also host cleanups where volunteers pull trash off the shorelines, like old tires and discarded toothbrushes, and remove debris still floating in from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
Because the plastic problem is international, Hirono says the Save our Seas 2.0 Act aims international, too, providing “critical resources for cleaning up our existing pollution, facilitating international collaboration to curtail marine debris globally, and improving infrastructure to keep debris from entering the environment.”
The Act creates a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration trust fund to respond to marine debris events, directs federal agencies to prioritize marine debris removal, and requires the administration to consider marine debris while negotiating international agreements.
It also requires the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a strategy within a year of the bill’s enactment to improve recycling infrastructure and programs to assist local waste management authorities in intercepting waste before it enters waterways.