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Prototype beach microplastics cleaning machine now ready for trial
Hawaii Wildlife Fund, with the help of countless volunteers, has been cleaning Hawaii's coastlines for 15 years and just reached a milestone of recovering 500,000 pounds of plastic, including bundles of nets and line. Its efforts have been frustrated by an abundance of microplastic debris which is the most difficult to collect and remove from the beach because it takes so much time.
All this could soon be about to change...
For about two years, 12 engineering students at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada have been working with HWF to design and construct a prototype machine to remove micro plastic debris from beaches. Their invention is called HoolaOne.
The students have already raised over $70,000 (CA $) to design and build HoolaOne and the prototype is ready for shipping and field testing at Kamilo. Ideally, some of the engineering students will accompany the machine to Hawaii in February to work with HWF team members to field test the prototype and make any adjustments or modifications needed to finetune the machine and ensure that it performs as well as possible.
The HWF needs to raise about $15,000 to bring the machine and students to Hawaii and is seeking donations from individuals and businesses throughout Hawaii to support this final push to bring this microplastics beach cleanup machine to Hawaii in February. Sponsors from elsewhere would also be most welcome.
"We hope future models can be used to clean beaches around the world to reduce wildlife losses to plastic ingestion," says the team. "You can also help by choosing to reduce the amount of single-use plastic items that you consume and dispose of daily!"
The work to clean the area's coastlines so far has been a real success. Over the past two years, the Hawaii Nei Marine Debris Removal Project, a collaborative partnership, has worked to remove a combined 369,393 pounds of pollution from four different islands.
Made possible through a grant awarded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program, this effort was led by HWF on the Islands of Hawaii and Maui; Surfrider Foundation on Kauai (SFK); and P?lama L?nai (PL) on the island of L?nai.
Team members and volunteers from each of the islands conducted a total of 137 community cleanup events and 668 derelict net recovery patrols over 24 months (from July 2016 to June 2018). These efforts removed a total of 167.6 metric tons of marine debris from Hawaii's coastlines-an estimated 50.9% which consisted of nets, rope and line. Debris items were collected from the shores of Hawaii Island (28% by weight), Kauai (68%), Maui (3%) and L?nai (1%).
Of the 167.6 metric tons (369,393 pounds) of debris collected over this project, an estimated 44.4% (164,069 pounds) was diverted from local landfills via reuse, recycling, energy recapture through the NOAA Nets-To-Energy Partnership and local/global art or research projects. Notably; 11,415 pounds of debris were diverted from Hawaii and Kauai Islands in collaboration with Studio KCA to create a life-size blue whale statue that was on display in Bruges, Belgium, from May to September 2018 and is now in route to the Netherlands.
In addition to conducting coastal cleanups, the project included marine debris surveys as a part of ongoing research efforts. A total of 69 surveys were conducted on five different survey sites, including 51 over three sites on L?nai (conducted by PL); four surveys on a site in Maui and 17 surveys carried out at Kamilo Point on Hawaii Island (all conducted by HWF). These data are crucial to identifying major sources and types of marine debris and plastic pollution in Hawaii.
This two-year project included the efforts of 25,471 volunteer hours in addition to the help of many local business which allowed the project to exceed its expectations (35 total community cleanups and 84 total net patrols proposed) and collect over twice the anticipated 54 metric tons of marine debris.
As a recent recipient of another Marine Debris Removal Grant award from NOAA for a three-year project beginning on 1st October, 2018, HWF says it is excited to continue its work in collaboration with Surfrider Foundation Kauai and Pulama L?nai.
"We are honoured to be a part of the growing effort statewide to remove and reduce the threats of plastic pollution to marine wildlife along our shores," says Megan Lamson, HWF Hawaii Island Program director, project co-principal investigator. "Together we can both recover debris washing in from near and far, and commit to refusing to be a part of the ever-increasing problem of single-use plastics used and disposed of here locally."
Dr. Carl Berg, co-principal investigator, adds: "For the past two years Surfrider Kauai has been collecting over five tons of marine debris monthly, mainly nets and fishing gear.
"We are working with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to reduce the amount of gear lost at sea and find environmentally friendly ways of recycling the debris."
Since 2003, Hawaii Wildlife Fund (HWF) and community volunteers have removed over 252 tons of marine debris from the shores of Hawaii Island alone. In 2017, HWF removed over 76,000 pounds of marine debris during 65 cleanup events on Maui and Hawaii Island.
Image courtesy of the Hawaii Tribune Herald
24th January 2019