Hawaii is my happy place. I have an Aunt and an Uncle who live there so when we were young and very lucky, we got to vacation in Kailua, Hawaii. I have so many happy memories of walking on the beach, playing in the sand, and swimming in the ocean. In school, I had heard about the ‘Great Plastic Garbage Patch’ and had monitored the progress of the attempts at innovation to clean up or vacuum the ocean. While I was concerned, I was also naive. It seemed to me that the problem was contained far away from land, and I had faith in the efforts that were happening and the funding that was being raised to solve this problem. I even did a report about it for school and predicted success in the project. While I am responsible about recycling and being environmentally conscious, I forgot about the plastic island in the middle of the ocean until my Auntie sent us pictures of her family in Kailua doing a beach clean up. It looked like there was more plastic than sand! The toy sifters that we used to use to separate shells from sand were now full of plastic. It seemed the ‘Garbage Patch’ had reached land. Then, I saw the news stories about the whale that died and washed up on the shore. When examined, it seems it died of malnutrition because the stomach was too full of plastic and garbage to allow food and digestion to occur. With a little research, I began to understand that this was far from an isolated incident. Whales do not have a way to get ride of the plastic once ingested. The combination of these images in my mind stand in stark contrast to the memories of the beach as a child. I am only seventeen years old and this has happened so quickly within my short lifetime. I am saddened. I am outraged. It is a much bigger problem than I had let myself imagine. There are so many people in this world and we each use too many single use plastics. We flippantly order single items to be delivered to our doors and they come inefficiently packed, and often surrounded my more plastic or waste. There is so much packaging that ends up in our landfills. I drank from a biodegradable sugar cane straw at my favorite Boba Tea restaurant the other day and was encouraged for a brief moment. There must be biodegradable options for our corporations to use! If we don’t go ‘green’ now, my children may one day walk on plastic beaches, and the marine animals that are magical and mysterious will no longer exist. I will study and work to help with the solution to this problem so that future generations will continue to know the beauty that is Hawaii and other places like it. I thank Dura-Pack for encouraging young people to think about this issue. While corporations must change, so must individuals. We need to change quickly. If this has happened within seventeen years, we have no time to waste.
Essay by: Laynie Tamada
Mountain View High School