Hallie Austen Iglehart estimates about a million sea creatures die annually from trash that makes its way to the oceans.
Iglehart, founder of All One Ocean, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about ocean cleanup and protecting marine life, said she’s also read research about the best way to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other trash gyres. The solution, she said, doesn’t involve going to the accumulations of garbage in distant ocean waters.
“People who research and go into that gyre have decided the way to clean it up is to clean up the beach,” Iglehart said.
To that end, she began installing Beach Clean Up Stations at locations in California in 2012. On Friday, she brought the first such station to Hawaii Island, at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area.
“It’s impressive,” Iglehart said. “I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t think it’s a good idea. This is to make every day a beach cleanup day.”
Education is important, too, she added.
The wooden boxes contain heavy foil coffee bags, typically tossed by coffee shops but repurposed as garbage bags for beach users to pick up and fill with refuse. Pictures, drawn by area students, decorate the outside. Each station costs about $300 to make and install, Iglehart said.
Maintaining the boxes, particularly replenishing the stock of coffee bags, is a task that will fall to volunteers. Several groups of volunteers have already stepped up, Iglehart said, including the Malama Kai Foundation’s Ocean Warriors project, which designed and built the boxes, collected the coffee bags, designed and printed informational signs and created the artwork to decorate the boxes. The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel has been saving coffee bags for about a year to donate to the project, Iglehart said.
Several other community groups and some high school students in South Kohala have expressed interest in helping restock the boxes, she added.
“It has been such a fun and rewarding opportunity for the Ocean Warriors students to be involved in a project that highlights their involvement in marine protection and their artwork, and also provides important information to members of their own community about how most marine debris begins as beach litter — something we can do our part to help,” Malama Kai Foundation’s Elizabeth Pickett said in an email.
Iglehart was particularly grateful to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which began coordinating with her last year, following a volunteer cleanup at Kealakekua Bay, to install the Beach Clean Up Stations at Hapuna. That beach was a DLNR suggestion, Iglehart said.
“They are overextended and underfunded and it takes time to do something new,” she said, adding that was also the case when convincing the appropriate authorizing agencies in California.
Community groups in Puako installed their own Beach Clean Up Station at Waialea Bay, better known as Beach 69, with a slightly different focus but many elements in common with All One Oceans’ stations.
Eight stations are in place in California, in the San Francisco Bay area, and All One Ocean has permission to install another eight.
Iglehart is seeking a steward to coordinate volunteers for the Hapuna Beach Clean Up Station. She can be contacted through alloneocean.org.