Cleanup Effort Helps Put Litter in It's Place

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (09/20/97)
By Ray Pendleton

Were you out there today? If so, congratulations for doing a great job!

Today was "Get the Drift and Bag It!" Day and from 8:30 to noon, hundreds of volunteers undertook a massive cleanup of Hawaii's shorelines and harbors.

With sponsorship from the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant Extension Service, the State Office of Planning's Coastal Zone Management Program and the Governor's Committee for a Beautiful Hawai`i, today's coastal cleanup was a part of an annual international event that occurs on the third Saturday of every September.

Get the Drift and Bag It is more than just a litter removal activity, it is a partnership between government, business and the public to actively identify and quantify the debris that is picked up and then use that information to change minds, behaviors and laws.

Last year this international coastal cleanup took place in over 90 countries and had over a quarter of a million volunteers, including some 25,000 SCUBA divers.

In the U.S. alone, 2.9 million pounds of trash was picked up, which amounted to a little more than 19 pounds per each of the 151,502 volunteers taking part.

As each individual piece of refuse was collected - be it a junked car or a paper cup - volunteers recorded the find on a data card and the accumulated results of that tally illuminates our pollution problem. As the National Center for Marine Conservation says in it's summer newsletter, the data creates a "dirty dozen" out of nearly two-thirds of the items recovered.

In the 12th position were plastic foam cups. These were followed in order of increased frequency by plastic beverage bottles, glass beverage bottles, metal beverage cans, plastic straws, glass pieces, paper pieces, plastic caps and lids, plastic food bags or wrappers, plastic foam pieces, and plastic pieces.

Perhaps to no one's surprise, the most frequently recorded pieces of refuse recovered were - for the seventh consecutive year - the plastic filters of cigarette butts. Such a statistic should cause smokers embarrassment as it clearly shows that they alone cause the most frequently found form of pollution along our nation's shorelines.

In Hawai`i, the general nature of the trash cleaned up was consistent with the national count. Last year's 3,785 volunteers picked up an estimated 161,661 pounds of litter, which included over 40,000 cigarette butts, the most pervasive item to be found.

Of course, in a litter cleanup this large, there were also many unusual items recorded last year. A fact sheet for the Get the Drift and Bag It program lists such recovered things as: an automobile steering wheel, a television, a video recorder, Tarot cards, a jockstrap, a bag containing 20 coconuts, and last, but not least, a Ford Tempo.

Also paralleling the national list was the nature of Hawaii's other most abundantly found items such as: bottles, food wrappers, paper and plastics - they are all recyclable.

"This list," according to the Center for Marine Conservation, "highlights a critical issue related to solving the marine debris problem in and along our lakes, rivers, beaches and ocean. It is one of citizen responsibility and environmental stewardship. Every piece of trash collected during the Cleanup has a person's face behind it.

"People are the cause of for this pollution problem; they are also the solution."

Today's volunteers were definitely taking an active part in finding the solution.

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