Trash-free Hawaii is a clean goal

We all see it when we’re driving on our highways. And we see it at beaches. And in the water.

Some days, it’s worse than others. But it’s always there. It’s relentless. It’s unstoppable. Just when you think you got rid of it, it returns. It keeps coming day after day.


Littering, of course, is not a new problem on Kauai, or anywhere, for that matter. Sadly, we have all likely contributed to the mess out there, in one way or another. It’s not just gathering along our highways, at our beaches and in the water, but that’s where most people see it.

Fortunately, we can do something about it. We can pick it up, which some do. Lots of community groups are out there, with little fanfare, cleaning garbage tossed aside by others. Some like-minded people just go out with a trash bag and do their part, without any motivation other than pride in their community and wanting it to look as good as possible. Other groups have beach cleanups and remove tons of debris, and we thank them.

A new campaign recently kicked off that deserves all our support. Its goal is to change our behavior, even tug at our hearts. We hope it works.

The state Department of Transportation Highways Division, Oahu District’s Storm Water Management Program recently commissioned two new public service announcements as part of their Trash Free Hawaii campaign. The goal of the campaign is to combat littering on Hawaii’s roadways, beaches and waterways.

“Littering on our roadways is a serious problem that can have devastating environmental effects,” said DOT Director Ford Fuchigami. “Trash that ends up in our storm drain system goes directly into the ocean untreated, negatively impacting water quality and marine life.”

The new Trash Free Hawaii PSAs began airing in September on local networks and cable stations as well as on various websites. The PSAs were produced by communications agency Milici Valenti Ng Pack and take a different approach to delivery of DOT’s anti-littering message.

“You can’t preach at people. That doesn’t change behavior — sometimes it has the opposite effect,” explained Steve Tom, creative director at MVNP. “You have to get to people emotionally. Then you’ll have a chance to move hearts and minds — or in our case, change behavior.” Tom has worked on several PSA initiatives, including an award-winning national anti-smoking campaign. MVNP hired noted local director Jeremy Snell and Shooters Film Production to produce the Trash Free Hawaii PSAs.

One of the PSAs, “Bittersweet Symphony,” opens on an underwater shot of a diaphanous form undulating in clear blue water. Permeated with tiny bubbles and shimmering in the dim deep, it could be a jellyfish, a bridal veil, a beautiful art piece — the mystery is heightened by an orchestral soundtrack. Finally, the truth is revealed: it’s a plastic bag, like so many that plague our ocean and shorelines. The unexpected finish jolts viewers to take note and recognize the need to make Hawaii trash-free.

The second PSA, “Time Matters,” begins with a frenetic rhythm building to a countdown. While timeframes flash on the screen, we see people going about their busy lives around town, jogging while ripping open an energy bar, commuting on the bus with coffee and newspaper in hand, chewing gum while marching down the street.

At first, the timeframes do not follow any order — they seem to be unique to each person. As they approach zero, the PSA’s characters arrive at trash cans and the message becomes clear: You only have to wait a short time to dispose of your trash properly. The spot communicates the urgency of holding onto trash, something we may not consider very often, and compels action by showing how easy it is to not litter — it’s just a matter of a few moments.

It takes just seconds to toss litter to the ground. And it happens over and over again, as evident by the trash out there. It takes days, weeks, months, to clean it up. Then, the process starts all over.

It’s been said before, and we’ll say it again. Kauai is too beautiful for litter.


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