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Environmental plastics cleanup

Just in time for Earth Day, the Associated Press carried a story Thursday about a crew of people who returned from a three week cleanup effort in the northernmost islands of the Hawaiian archipelago. The group spent their time working at the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, 1,300 miles north of Honolulu, and came back with 47 tons — that’s 94,000 pounds — of marine plastics. The haul included lost and abandoned fishing nets, buoys, crates, bottles, fishing gear, washed up surfboards, even cigarette lighters that littered the beaches and snared the wildlife trying to live there.

The monument is in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge area of floating debris that floats around the ocean.

The NOAA estimates that the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands accumulates about 57 tons of debris each year, according to the AP report. The lines loop around the necks of endangered monk seals, cutting into their flesh and restricting their movements or their breating. Bits of plastic are ingested by birds who die from the overload.

This is a problem that may seem to be on the other side of the world, but one every nation should be aware of and trying to deal with.

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