Hawaii has long evoked images of a Pacific paradise but Kamilo Beach, located on the Big Island, presents a starkly different reality
An array of plastic crunched underfoot as Mattie Mae Larson walked down Kamilo Beach. Toothbrushes, a plastic broom, a leaking bottle, the back of a TV.
Larson used to come to this remote stretch of Hawaiian sand as a child to climb 10ft-high mountains of debris, searching for treasures.
As kids, we called it plastic beach, she recalls. But today shes back with a different mission.
Kamilo Beach, located on the south-eastern tip of Hawaiis Big Island, has been dubbed one of the most plastic-polluted spots on the planet. On a bright day last summer, Larson and fellow members of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund (HWF), a team of conservation volunteers, collected 1,400lb of it.
Hawaii has long evoked images of a remote Pacific paradise, a land of pristine beaches and extraordinary biodiversity. But its unique location has forced the islands to reckon with an unwelcome guest: plastic debris washing up in vast quantities, sullying its waters and threatening its marine life. A 2019 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Hawaiian fish begin eating plastic particles just days after being born.
For Larson and other activists, Kamilo Beach has become ground zero of the crisis.