The Trump administration has been put on notice by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The nonprofit on Thursday filed its formal notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for not protecting Hawaiian waters from plastic pollution.

“The plastic pollution crisis is already wreaking havoc on Hawaii’s beaches and coastal waters, so the Trump administration needs to act now,” said Emily Jeffers, a staff attorney with the center, in a news release. “Officials first need to acknowledge the problem. Then we have to clean up the plastic that’s fouling the coastline and contaminating marine life.”

Plastic trash is so prevalent in the ocean that it has washed up in large quantities on Kamilo Beach on the Big Island.

Civil Beat

Studies show 17 water bodies around Hawaii are impaired, the release says, including off Kamilo Beach on the Big Island. It is often called “Plastic Beach” because of the amount of garbage on it.

The Clean Water Act requires the EPA to list all water bodies that are failing to meet state water-quality standards, the release says, but has not done so for any waters impaired by plastic.

“At beaches where our cultural practitioners use to collect limu, or our keiki used to gather shells, now we see only plastic,” said Maxx Phillips, the center’s Hawaii director, in the release. “Ocean plastic pollution is a global epidemic that Hawaii is paying the price for. Identifying Hawaiian waters that are impaired is an important first step in combating this serious problem.”

Plastic pollution, which has been accumulating in the oceans for decades, is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050, according to the center.

Much of that plastic comes from Asian countries that process American plastic waste, the release says, but surveys have found a significant percentage of the plastics contaminating Hawaii’s waters originate within the state.

Support local journalism

Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.

About the Author