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State Honoree

Chelsea Masaki

Mililani, Hawaii

Chelsea Masaki, 13, of Mililani, Hawaii, an eighth-grader at Mililani Middle School, works to keep the ocean and beaches of Hawaii clean by participating in regular cleanup activities and educating others about the dangers of plastic pollution. Chelsea’s father, an avid diver and fisherman, taught her to swim and dive when she was very young. “This helped me to gain a deep respect and love for the ocean and beach,” she said. Like many in Hawaii, Chelsea’s family spends a lot of time on the weekends enjoying the beach. But in recent years, she said, they noticed an increasing amount of plastic debris on the sand and in the water.

For the past three years, Chelsea and her family have spent many weekends cleaning beaches on their own and as part of organized group efforts, including two beaches they adopted through a local nonprofit environmental organization. Armed with garden gloves, scoop nets, buckets, tongs, knives and sifters, the family picks up larger pieces of litter and marine debris from the sand with tongs and uses nets to scoop them out of the waves. For microplastic debris, they use sifters to separate the sand from the plastic particles, gather the debris in buckets and dispose of them in garbage bins. “By removing microplastics, birds will not mistake them for food and get sick and die,” Chelsea said. “And by removing marine debris in our ocean, our marine animals will not get tangled or caught in them.” On her website, Chelsea posts information about beach cleanups, writes about environmental issues and posts pictures of cleanup activities. Chelsea also speaks about plastic pollution to elementary school students and visitors at the Waikiki Aquarium.