Clean Islands Clean Beaches

Gehh Island is located in the Republic of the Marshall Island. It is an inhabited island in the Kwajalein Atoll.

The Pacific Research Organization (PRO) took a 45 minute boat ride to the island of Gehh. The original plan, before we got to the island, was to clear the trash off the island and come back to Kwajalein so that we can record all the trash collected. Then, after one year, we would go back and see how much trash had washed up onto the island in a year’s time. This plan would help us get an image of how much trash is floating around in the ocean.

But, things took a slight turn.

The PRO arrived to the waters of the island after a bumpy boat ride, swam to the island, and crawled onto the fascinating island of Gehh. We were astonished by the amount of trash that had been washed up on the shores of this beautiful island. There was so much trash on the island that the PRO split up into smaller groups and focused on designated areas on the north side of the island. The group was unable to collect all of the trash in their designated areas in the time they had.

The PRO managed to gather enough trash to fill many large trash bags in the 60 minutes spent on Gehh. The trash collected by the PRO was just a small portion of the trash on the island. The group collected a range of different materials that had been washed up on the shore of the north end of the island. There were plastic bottles, small plastic debris, flip flops, bottle caps, ropes, styrofoam, aluminium cans, drink containers, glass bottles, lighters, utensils, tooth brushes, combs, buoys, etc. on the north side of the island. The amount of trash collected from just the north side of the island was unbelievable, especially since it’s an inhabited island.

The trash that ends up on the island took a long journey to get there. The PRO came to a conclusion together that the probability of the trash being from just the people in the Marshall Islands is not very high. We felt that there is no way that just the Atoll’s residents are to blame for all the trash on this island. Obviously there are other atolls in the RMI, but not even the populations on those islands could solely account for the amount of trash we found. The labels on some of the containers were even from different countries. So, the group concluded that the trash travels from different parts of the world and gets caught into the current and then drifts around and ends up on different islands in our country.

Our project is bigger than we thought. We have to get the island clean so we can start measuring what washes ashore in a year. There is a lot more trash out there than we realized and we are going to have to be serious about finding some solutions.

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