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Local Environmental Group Partners with New York Artists to Build Giant Blue Whale Out of Plastic Trash

Since early July, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund (HWF) and volunteers have been working to fill a 40 ft. Matson container with blue and white plastics for an architecture couple in Brooklyn, NY. Jason Klimoski and Lesley Chang of StudioKCA plan to build a 30 ft. blue whale sculpture made entirely out of the collected plastic marine debris. The whale sculpture will be installed as part of a triennial event in the town of Bruges, Belgium in May 2018.

Jason Klimoski (5th from top right) and Lesley Chang (3th from bottom right) of StudioKCA and Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund Collection Team volunteers from Innovations Public Charter School in Kona. Photo by Alejandro Durán / WashedUp Project.

“The Bruges Whale is meant to spark conversation and raise awareness about the tremendous amount of plastic waste that is ending up in our oceans, hopefully helping the nearly 2,000,000 anticipated visitors reconsider what and how we consume, package, and dispose of plastic” said Jason Klimoski, StudioKCA. Jason adds, “Special thanks to Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund for their tremendous effort over the course of the last several months, helping us collect blue, white, and grey plastic to build ‘Skyscraper’, or ‘the Bruges Whale’ for the 2018 Bruges Triennial”.

In total, 17 Hawai‘i Island cleanup events were coordinated by HWF to fill the shipping container with approximately 3,000 lbs. of plastics while it was stationed at the Wai‘ōhinu Transfer Station in Ka‘ū. Additionally, Surfrider Foundation volunteers on Kaua‘i collected 1,000 lbs. of plastic debris that were added to the container once it reached Hilo courtesy of a Young Brothers gratis-shipping grant that was received by HWF. Matson Navigation was another supporter of the project by extending the time allowed to fill the container for free. Kona Trans also provided StudioKCA with a discounted hauling rate for the project and the County of Hawai‘i’s Department of Environmental Management provided HWF space to store the 40 ft. container for 12 weeks as volunteers contributed to fill it with plastic debris, making this effort an especially collaborative project by local businesses and residents alike. The container will ship from Hilo on Oct. 4, to begin its journey to New York, and later Belgium.

“We are thrilled to able to work with artists to create awareness installations, like this Blue Whale project, and simultaneously divert some of this plastic pollution from our island landfills. Since 2003, HWF and volunteers have removed nearly 225 tons of debris from the shores of Hawai’i Island. Whatever cannot be recycled, generally ends up in landfills. Innovative projects that include re-use, art, research, and recycling are always preferred!” said Megan Lamson, HWF Hawai’i Island Program Director.

HWF is a small nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1996 to conserve native wildlife. During its 21-year existence, HWF and volunteers have removed a total of 260 tons of marine debris from the shores of Hawai’i Island (86% by weight), Maui, Midway and the French Frigate Shoals. In 2017 alone, HWF and volunteers have removed 63,343 lbs. of marine debris from Hawai’i Island & Maui during 51 community cleanup events. The majority of HWF’s marine debris removal work is conducted by volunteer labor, with financial support from the federal government (NOAA’s Marine Debris Program), local businesses (Matson Navigation, Kona Surf Film Festival, Kona Brewers Festival, Norwex, etc.), and individual donations from around the world.

If you would like more information on the project or how to get involved with HWF, please contact them at kahakai.cleanups@gmail.com or at 808-769-7629 or check out the HWF website at www.wildhawaii.org. For information about Jason Klimoski and Lesley Chang of StudioKCA, visit www.studiokca.com.

UPDATE – Just received a call from Kona Trans and the corrected scale weight of the “blue whale” debris plastics in the 40′ container is actually 19,212 lbs. (we had super underestimated at 4,000 lbs.!!).

9.5 tons of marine-debris plastics from Hawai’i Island and Kaua’i are shipping to Brooklyn from the port of Hilo tomorrow.

Hawaii Wildlife Fund Ends its 2014 Marine Debris Season

On Friday, the Hawaii Wildlife Fund (HWF) ended its 2014 marine debris season loading net and line into a container for shipment to Honolulu. The HWF team loaded about 4.5 tons of net into a 40’ trailer provided by Matson Navigation’s “Ka Ipu ‘Āina” program.

L to R (with affiliations): Megan Lamson/HWF, Nohealani Ka'awa/DLNR-DOFAW, Stacey Breining/HWF, Ryan Levita/HWF, and Kallie Barnes/HWF.

L to R (with affiliations): Megan Lamson/HWF, Nohealani Ka’awa/DLNR-DOFAW, Stacey Breining/HWF, Ryan Levita/HWF, and Kallie Barnes/HWF.

Megan Lamson, Marine Debris Project Coordinator for HWF, said “Most of the net and line was recovered from the southeast Kaʻū coast.” The container will be shipped to Oʻahu, where Schnitzer Steel will chop it into pieces and then it will be burned at the Covanta H-Power plant. This Nets-to-Energy partnership was arranged by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program to keep the material out of the landfill and create electricity with it. Since 2005, HWF’s tally for these net and line shipments is about 75 tons.

Ryan Levita and Stacey Breining (with HWF) hard at work during the net loading with the JD Services, LLC. skidsteer and operator in the backdrop.

Ryan Levita and Stacey Breining (with HWF) hard at work during the net loading with the JD Services, LLC. skidsteer and operator in the backdrop.

Lamson said, “This container shipment is only a fraction of the total debris we’ve collected from the Hawaiʻi Island shoreline. This year, winds and currents brought in different proportions of marine debris — less net and line, and a higher percentage of other floating debris, including fish traps, buoys, crates, tires, boat pieces, and an extensive list of normal household items.” While HWF works with other groups on the island gathering debris from multiple sites, their main focus is on the Kaʻū coast where more debris washes ashore than any other place in the main Hawaiian Islands. The organization began this work in 2003 and in recent years has been removing an annual average of 15-20 tons for a total to date of about 173 tons. The HWF marine debris cleanup work is supported with a grant from NOAA.   But, Lamson said “We have other local partners that also help with in-kind donations and funding and we have a large group of volunteers that are critical to the overall effort. The container loading, for example, would not be possible without the tractor assistance provided by JD Services, LLC.”

She said “We organize community cleanups about every other month and dozens of volunteers show up to these events. Our volunteers are an enthusiastic mix of regulars and first-time collectors and are great fun to work with; we recognize them as our most effect tool in our marine debris removal efforts.” The next large cleanup event in Kaʻū will be held on Saturday, February 7th. To volunteer or for more information on HWF’s other activities see wildhawaii.org or contact kahakai.cleanups@gmail.com or (808) 769-7629.