Chance to clean up the area comes Saturday
Have you ever participated in an environmental cleanup?
If not, I should warn you, it's often a little like picking up after a child. One minute everything is neat and tidy, and in the blink of an eye things can turn to chaos.
That was the humbling experience a few hundred volunteers and I had one day a few years ago along the Ala Wai Canal. After spending hours removing trash-bergs from those polluted waters, we were nearly moved to tears when a brief tropical downpour suddenly washed several tons of trash from Waikiki's streets and storm drains into our so-briefly cleaned canal.
Nevertheless, just as parents continue to clean up after their children, folks continue to volunteer for environmental cleanups. And one of the largest and most enduring of these cleanups is coming up Saturday.
Known in Hawaii as "Get the Drift and Bag It," it is held in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup that last year accounted for some 378,000 volunteers in 76 countries clearing a reported 6 million pounds of trash from the world's oceans and waterways.
What makes this cleanup different and more significant than others is that its organizers have developed a system that asks its volunteers not only to pick up the refuse, but also to identify, categorize and record every individual item.
Researchers then use the data from this identification process to determine the probable source of the trash and to create future strategies for attacking the problem.
Last year's data from the Ala Wai Harbor area that was compiled by Waikiki Yacht Club members and staff volunteers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for instance, accounted for a total of 620 pounds of trash.
However, that total was then broken down further to reveal that it was made up of 6,486 individual pieces of refuse that were related to one of six activities: shoreline and recreational, ocean and waterway, smoking, dumping, medical or personal hygiene, and a catch-all called "items of local concern."
Smoking activities, as they have in the past, accounted for the lion's share of the total items tallied, this year amounting to 3,190, or 49 percent.
I'm sure some of the cigarette butts counted had been snubbed out on the beach or tossed in the water by unthinking shoreline visitors, but the vast majority surely came from motorists who have created the drifts of butts along Waikiki's street curbs that subsequently get washed into our waterways.
This annual cleanup can also turn into something of a macabre treasure hunt, as such diverse items as a syringe, a hula-hoop, a rubber ducky and a French-tip acrylic fingernail have also been identified.
If you would like to volunteer to "Get the Drift and Bag It" in the Ala Wai Harbor and Ala Moana Park area on Saturday, the WYC's site coordinator Bobbie Jennings would love to hear from you. She can be reached at 946-8661.
Volunteers are asked to meet at the WYC at 8 a.m. and bring closed-toe shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, a cap or visor, bottled water and rubber gloves.