Marine debris is a major problem along shorelines all over the world. The countries that are around the Pacific Ocean are known as the Pacific Rim. Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. so we get marine debris from other countries around the Pacific Rim, and they get our trash, too.
Since we live in Hawaii, the ocean is a big part of our lives, and we want to protect it from anything that can harm it.
Our Pacific Rim Project: What We Did: Every year, the Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup has shoreline cleanup projects around the world. Volunteers pick up marine debris from the shore and keep a count of what they collect. They put the data on the Internet.
We looked at the data from different countries around the Pacific Rim to see what was the same and what was different. Then, we thought about why it was like that. We looked at some cultural habits and at ocean currents.
Map image from Saskatchewan Learning at www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/Please see citation page for full reference.
The States and Countries:
How We Chose the Countries to Look At: There are a lot of countries around the Pacific Rim! We couldn't look at them all. We decided to pick some based on our ethnic backgrounds.
Hawaii is called a "melting pot," because so many people that live here have different ethnic backgrounds. Even though we all go to the same school, we all have different ethnic backgrounds. We each picked a country that was part of our background. Here is what we picked.
Aaron - Hawaii (USA)
Kristi - Japan
Sailor - California (USA)
Daniel - Mexico
Lauren - China
Shaianne - Philippines
To find out more about us, go to our Team Page and click on our names.
We also looked at some cultural practices of the different countries. We looked at the percent of adults who smoked, the municipal wasteper capita, and the number of marine protected areas. We compared them to the percent of cigarettes found in the marine debris for that country.
#1 Marine Debris Type
% of Cigarettes in Marine Debris
% Adults Who Smoke
Municipal Waste Per Person (kg)
# of Marine Protected Areas (MPA)
caps and lids
caps and lids
We looked at the main ocean currents to see which way the marine debris would go. In the Pacific Ocean, the current goes in a big circle that goes clock-wise, so it goes down the coast of North America, across the ocean along the Equator, and then it goes up the coast of Asia.
After looking at our Results, we had some questions before we made any conclusions:
Why were cigarettes such a big part of California and Hawaii's debris, when they had the lowest percent of adult smokers? Maybe the people in California and Hawaii who do smoke, smoke a lot more than the people in Asia, like a pack or more a day, when the people in Asia only smoke one or two cigarettes a day. Also, China, the Philippines and Japan all had a lot more pounds of debris than California and Hawaii, so there would be a lot of different things other than cigarettes.
Why did China, Mexico and the Philippines have low amounts of cigarettes in their debris when they smoke as much as Japan, and more than California and Hawaii? A lot of people in California and Hawaii throw their cigarettes our their car window and empty their ash trays in the street. Then, the cigarettes go straight to the ocean. In China, Mexico and the Philippines, people probably don't drive as many cars, so they don't throw their cigarettes in the street while driving.
If California and Hawaii had such high amounts of municipal waste per person, why didn't they have a lot of pounds of debris per mile? We think this is because California and Hawaii have recycle bottle bills, and the people do a lot of recycling. In California, they have curbside recycling, and they recycle most kinds of plastic, not just plastic bottles. Californai also had the most marine protected areas, where people don't litter much.
Why are the pounds of marine debris per mile so much more on the Western side of the Pacific Rim (China, Japan, Philippines), than they are on the Eastern side (California, Mexico) and in the middle (Hawaii)? We think because there are more people in China, Japan and Philippines than there are in California and Hawaii, so they make more trash. Also, the currents could take the marine debris away from California, Mexico and Hawaii, and leave it on the shores in China, Japan and the Philippines.
Now that you found out about marine debris in these countries, find out about your own country!