No butts about it at this beach

WAILUA — Who’s got the butt bag?

That question echoed throughout the Lydgate Park complex Saturday as three groups of students from Kapa‘a High School joined other volunteers from the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park for a major work day.

According to Thomas Noyes of the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park, there were over 150 volunteers who turned out for the event that coincided with the national Make A Difference Day program.

Among that group were high-school volunteers from the Kapa‘a High School’s Interact Club, the Key Club, and the National Honor Society.

These students were working in a joint effort between leaders of the Tobacco Free Kaua‘i coalition and the Kai Makana program, another group of citizens concerned about the ocean and its shoreline.

“This is a highly-used park,” said Rhonda Liu of TFK.

The high-school students were broken up into groups that scoured the entire Lydgate complex, that was divided into six areas, in an effort to collect cigarette butts (in a separate bag) as well as pick up other debris.

Members of these groups would collectively gather at the end of the half-day outing to combine their collections.

Students did not have to look far for cigarette butts that appeared to magically present themselves and kept students busy.

“Look at this! It looks like someone emptied their ashtray over here,” one student from the Key Club commented as he stumbled across a collection of butts near the welcoming Lydgate Park sign that separates the main park from the south end.

“People think that the filters are made of cotton,” Liu said as she extracted a aged butt from within the grass along the bicycle and pedestrian path.

“But, in actuality, it’s made up of a lot of plastic, and it doesn’t degrade,” she said, smartly depositing it into a designated butt bag.

In line with the discussion on plastics, Kai Makana leaders were on hand with Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i students and, working with the Kapa‘a High School students, scoured the shorelines of both the Lydgate tidal and kiddie pools, looking for tiny bits of plastic.

Hannah Bernard from Maui had fashioned a makeshift scoop/sift device using a discarded plastic gallon juice jug, which worked well for sifting the sand and collecting the tiny bits of plastic debris.

“All the trash matters,” Bernard said. “Sea birds eat the tiny plastic pieces. Kaua‘i is home to some nesting Laysan Albatross, and this tiny ingested plastic is passed along to the fledglings during feeding.”

Bernard explained that, because the plastic cannot be digested, it displaces water and nutrients in the bird, who eventually dies. Autopsies on these victims usually reveal a stomach filled with tiny plastic pieces, she said.

Working with Kai Makana officials, Dr. Carl Berg of the Hanalei Watershed Hui was also on hand, as was Donna Kahaku‘i, the head of the Kai Makana program.

Kahaku‘i didn’t have far to look to find the tiny plastic pieces that Bernard talked about, that could come from toys, discarded containers, and other marine debris.

The Kai Makana program is a community partnership. Leaders and volunteers work with other community groups to spread awareness as well as concerns for the quality of the ocean and its shorelines, Kahaku‘i explained.

During a mid-morning break from looking for cigarette butts, plastic marine debris, and other trash, the students were involved in doing water-quality tests under Berg’s supervision. These tested the water quality in both the tidal and kiddie pools, both highly-used by Lydgate Park users.

Armed with two, five-gallon glass jars and a supply of purple butt bags clearly marked with the TFK logo, Liu said she and others were ready to graphically demonstrate their theme of “The Beach is Not an Ashtray” during their participation with Help Sweep the Butts at the Make A Difference Day event.

TFK is a community-based coalition of organizations and individuals committed to a healthy Kaua‘i through the elimination of tobacco use.

Please watch for more coverage of Make A Difference Day events, including an article on the Hanapepe efforts on the cover of the Westside/South Shore district section this Thursday, Oct. 27.

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