The Green Leaf

Getting butts off the beach

December 3rd, 2012
Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii picked up 1,748 cigarette butts at Waikiki Beach within just one hour.  Courtesy image.

Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii picked up 1,748 cigarette butts at Waikiki Beach within just one hour. Courtesy image.

Got your attention? I'm talking about cigarette butts.

Cigarette butts are probably the most ubiquitous litter left behind by humans at the beach, along with plastic litter. It's a serious problem.

City councilman Stanley Chang is proposing a bill (Bill 72) that would ban smoking at some of Honolulu's most popular beaches, including Ala Moana, Duke Kahanamoku and Kuhio Beach parks in Waikiki. It's not an entirely novel idea - after all, the Hawaii County Council passed a smoking ban at all its county parks in 2008. But it's about time.

A recent Star-Advertiser online poll showed that 71 percent of 2,092 voters supported the smoking ban.

It may just have to come down to making a law and making sure it's enforced to get butts of the beach. On the other end of it is education, which is what Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is trying to do to tackle the problem of cigarette butt litter.

The group is seeing whether signs and portable ash trays at beach concession stands will make any difference. On a recent sweep of cigarette butts, the group cleared a total of 1,748 cigarette butts within one hour along part of Waikiki beach in late November.

It's astounding how many people, locals and tourists alike, use the beach as one big ashtray. There's a perception that it's okay, and that the butts will just go away somehow, buried somewhere in the sand. But they don't just decompose and go away — cigarette butts contain both toxins from tobacco as well as slow-to-degrade plastics in their filters.

The cigarette butts can end up swept into the ocean, where it poisons marine animals. They're also a blight for Hawaii's beaches and have a human impact. How much would you enjoy a walk along a shoreline, only to step on a few cigarette butts here and there? How fun is it to have your toddler making sandcastles, only to pick out a few dirty cigarette butts here and there?

Want to help? Here's a list of some upcoming beach cleanups:

Sunset Beach cleanup on Saturday, Dec 8. From 10 a.m. to noon, Surfrider Oahu presents the Sunset Beach Cleanup with Airwalk. Volunteers are asked to bring their own reusable water bottles and sunscreens and encouraged to bring reusable gloves for picking up trash. Lunch will be provided. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to meet Airwalk pro surfer Anastasia Ashley.

North Shore beach cleanup on Saturday, Dec. 29. Adopt a Beach and Save the Sea Turtles International holds its next beach cleanup on Dec. 29 (and every last Saturday of the month). Meet at 10 a.m. a Chun's Reef on the North Shore, t 61-529 Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa. Call 637-2211 or go to for more information.

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