Tsunami trash headed to our Pacific shores

Heavy machinery removes March 11 tsunami debris covering rice fields at the Otomo area in Rikuzentakata city, Iwate prefecture on April 15, 2011. Debris is currently heading toward the U.S.'s Pacific shores across the ocean.

Jeremy Hobson: Well from China to Japan now, and the millions of tons of debris floating across the Pacific after last year's tsunami. Some of it has started to arrive on the U.S. West Coast.

And now, as Marketplace's Adriene Hill reports, somebody's going to have to pay to clean it up.


Adriene Hill: It’s hard to say exactly how much debris -- from soccer balls to fishing boats -- will land on U.S. beaches. And, because of that, it’s hard to put a price tag on the clean-up.

But U.S. Sen. Mark Begich from Alaska guesses it’s not going to be cheap.

Mark Begich: It will easily be in the millions to clean this up. 

And it’s not really clear who’s going to pay.

Begich: It’s going to be a combination of federal government; state government; local governments; to some extent, nonprofit groups and the private sector -- because it’s not going to be able to be done by one single entity.  

NOAA spokesperson Diana Parker says a big part of the clean-up responsibility will fall to do-gooders.

Diana Parker: For smaller debris, like consumer plastics or Styrofoam we’re going to rely pretty heavily on volunteer groups that have already formed to deal with marine debris.

Senator Begich says there’s no way volunteer help will be enough. He’s holding a Senate hearing on tsunami debris in the next couple of weeks.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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