Kalaupapa shoreline beset by North Pacific ‘garbage patch’

| December 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

This map is a simple representation of ocean currents and features in the Pacific Ocean. There are numerous factors that affect the location, size, and strength of all of these features throughout the year, including seasonality and El Nino/La Nina. Depicting that on a static map is very difficult. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.


Although the landfill at Kalaupapa shut down earlier this year, garbage continues to come to the isolated peninsula from an unlikely source.

As reported by nationalparkstraveler.com, a huge vortex of trash in the North Pacific Ocean deposits garbage on Hawaiian shorelines, making beach cleanup a “never-ending task” at Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

Arthur Ainoa, who is in charge of the Kalaupapa recycling program, was not at the settlement and could not be reached for comment. But according to an administrative assistant at the National Park Service, the beach cleanups are regular occurrences.

Garbage from these cleanups is collected and stored for recycling to be hauled away by the annual barge that visits each summer. This is handled differently from the household garbage generated on Kalaupapa, which is now sent off by planes.

Last year, a single beach cleanup at Kalaupapa yielded 300 pounds of trash. This trash, mostly plastic debris, originated far away and was delivered to these shores by wind and waves.

To the northwest of Kalaupapa, on Oahu’s North Shore, a group of 474 volunteers collected four tons of trash and 89,253 separate debris items in 2009.

Apparently, a 6,000 mile-long system of westward-flowing winds and ocean currents called the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone (STCZ) concentrates floating trash and moves it to the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands, where some of it ends up on the beaches.

For more information on the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” go to http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/patch.html#5. This NOAA site explains the difficulty of measuring and cleaning this garbage patch. The site also demystifies some of the popular misconceptions about the garbage patch, like the idea that it can be observed by satellite.

Category: Kalaupapa and Father Damien, News, Sustainability

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