1,522 Butts Removed in Keōpūolani Park Cleanup
By Wendy Osher
More than 1,500 cigarette butts were removed from Keōpūolani Park in Kahului during a one-hour cleanup effort hosted by Mālama Maui Nui and the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaiʻi.
The cleanup was conducted on Wednesday, March 5, and was focused solely on the main playground area.
“We didn’t have enough volunteers to cover the whole park, so we stuck to the playground area behind the Maui Arts and Cultural Center” said Sonya Niess, Maui coordinator for the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaiʻi in an email communication.
“We were shocked when the final count of 1,522 butts was made. We thought oh maybe we’ll pick up a few hundred. You should have seen the kids’ faces when they realized how many butts they had picked up and that they helped clean the park. It was great to see them empowered like that,” said Niess.
The cleanup comes on the heels of an island-wide cleanup led by the Maui District Student Council Organization in January in which 14,000 cigarette butts were collected in less than two hours at beaches across Maui.
An additional 3,100 butts were collected during a cleanup led by the Surfrider Foundation at Kahului Harbor on Saturday, Feb. 15. The recent efforts are part of an awareness campaign to help support legislation for tobacco-free beaches and parks, that was introduced by Council Member Don Guzman last month. The item is scheduled for a hearing in the Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture and Recreation Committee on Friday March 14, 4 p.m. Supporters of the legislation argue that cigarette butts are “toxic and are made of a form of plastic that is non-biodegradable.” Representatives with the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaiʻi, say cigarette butts are the number one item picked up at beach and park clean-up events.
Groups that have contributed to the recent cleanup efforts include: the Maui District Student Council Organization, members of the Surfrider Foundation, youth from Maui Economic Opportunity, members of the Boys and Girls Club of Haʻikū, nursing students from the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, and the Department of Health volunteers program.