When you daydream about a beach vacation, what comes to mind? Warm, white sand? Sparkling, clear, blue ocean and cloudless, sunny sky? Think again. If we were writing a travel book, we’d quote from this article in The Guardian, describing a remote beach on the Big Island in Hawaii:

“Along the wide beach, plastic is ever present. The waves crashing on jagged black lava rocks glisten with blue, pink and white flecks of microplastic. The soft white sand is speckled with a variety of household items – a plastic spoon, the end of a broom, the sole of a shoe, half a dustpan. Many items are covered in barnacles and algae acquired from unknown years of ocean travel.”

Because of natural, massive, swirling currents, the Pacific Ocean deposits plastic pollution from around the world, and across the decades, at Kamilo Beach on southeastern Hawaii island. Hawaii Wildlife Fund experts estimate that 15 to 20 tons of debris wash up here each year. In the past two decades, dedicated volunteers and staff have removed about 293 tons of plastic debris from beaches across the island, most of it from Kamilo.

From humpback whales struggling in abandoned plastic fishing nets, to sea turtles trapped in plastic bags, to baby fish beginning to ingest particles of plastic within days of being born, the marine life here is hard hit. Divers and fisherman also report seeing ever-present, ever-increasing debris in the water.

We need to stop plastic pollution by rethinking plastic use, especially single-use. Whether it’s a plastic-wrapped snack we take to a Hawaii beach, plastic suntan bottles we drop on a beach thousands of miles away, or plastic bags we bring home from supermarkets worldwide, people, places and animals are suffering when those products hit the oceans.