This island is our responsibility

If you take a drive, a walk, a bike ride, around Kauai, you will see amazing natural beauty. Spectacular sunsets, massive mountains and wonderful waves. It is a blessing, for sure.

Unfortunately, you will also see a lot of trash.

A receive trek on Saturday morning just around Lihue included sightings of two discarded washing machines, plastic bags of garbage, the usual litter that folks toss from their cars, clothes and shoes, vehicle tires and, yes, several abandoned cars.

While we like to blame all of Kauai’s woes on tourists (they’re crowding our roads and beaches and wearing out our infrastructure is the usual line), we can’t fault them for pushing washing machines from pickup trucks into the brush alongside dirt roads. We can’t blame them for rolling worn tires off to the roadside. And we can’t pin them down for flying their junk cars out here and leaving them in random places throughout the island.

Nope. That is all us, the people who live, work and play here; the people who call Kauai home.

One longtime resident, in a recent conversation, didn’t dispute there is a lot of trash being dumped out there. He didn’t dispute there are a lot of abandoned cars and that the county seems to take a long time to remove some of them. Sure, the county could do better.

What, he wondered, though, happened to personal responsibility? What happened to taking care of your own property and disposing of it in the proper manner? When did it become acceptable to just dump your trash and old cars for someone else (the county) to clean up?

It didn’t. Some people decided otherwise. And, frankly, that leaves a negative mark on the entire island. You’ve likely heard the jokes going around that Kauai is the “garbage island.”

We won’t lump everyone into one basket on this issue. It’s really just a small number of people who don’t care where or when or how they leave a mess behind. The majority of folks do things right, take responsibility and leave things better than they found them. They teach their children well.

What this resident was calling on was likely a pipe dream, but we’ll share it anyway. He was calling on everyone to simply take responsibility for themselves and for their property. To take care of their own trash. To take care of their own old appliances. To take care of their own broken-down cars. By take care of, he means to dispose of these things in the appropriate manner, and that doesn’t include leaving it on a roadside or in the bushes and driving away.

If we can do that, we won’t have abandoned cars decorating the island. We won’t have old clothes and trash at scenic lookouts. We won’t have trash bags piling up.

This particular resident has faith that all those living and working and playing on Kauai will rise to this challenge and treat this island like the special place it is.

We hope he is right.

  1. VintageVNvet November 22, 2019 5:05 am Reply

    County we lived in a while ago had this same problem; here’s what the county commission decided to do: Each and every household had an annual fee for solid waste added to their electric bill, and thereafter all deliveries to the transfer stations were totally free.
    Some continued with paid private pick ups, others who were good recyclers went once a month or even less to the transfer station, especially if they were composting all their food scraps — or feeding their chickens, etc…
    Although old, sometimes very old ”dumps” were found, there was no reason for anyone to continue dumping along the roads, etc…
    This policy worked very well.

  2. Steven McMacken November 22, 2019 5:13 am Reply

    Sadly, in this age of self-centeredness and entitlement, asking anyone to take responsibility for his or her actions is probably asking too much. But if enough people commit to improving the environment and start leading by example then, perhaps, others will follow. The sooner we realize that the fate of Kauai is, quite literally, in our own hands, then the sooner we can take action to preserve it.

  3. Steven McMacken November 22, 2019 5:15 am Reply

    One sentence in your editorial struck me:

    “And we can’t pin them down for flying their junk cars out here and leaving them in random places throughout the island.”

    This actually happens? People “fly” in their junk cars and abandon them here? How can the powers that be allow this to happen?

    1. Rereader November 22, 2019 4:00 pm Reply

      I think the point was that people don’t do that, for the obvious reason of impracticality. And thus it is a local doing it.

      1. Steven McMacken November 23, 2019 4:46 am Reply

        Thank you. I agree — now that I’ve reread it — that that was the intent of the statement. (Need more coffee.)

  4. pay to ship a junk car? November 22, 2019 1:31 pm Reply

    I think it possible, but not likely that someone would spend $2K or more to bring a car from the mainland, only to abandon it here, however, we do it for aluminum, and glass…why not institute a “deposit” on all cars sold, and brought to the island…say $1K per vehicle, Once the car is sold, the “deposit” is refunded to the seller, and is then paid by the buyer. If the owner recycles the auto correctly, they get their deposit back as long as they have proof. If there is no record of sale for the vehicle within 6 months, the deposit is forfeited to the county, to help cover whatever disposal fees there may be. Someone came up with a suggestion that the sales transaction should take place at the DMV, so the seller is assured that the transaction has been completed…that sounds like something that could be implemented as well….no more abandoning your car on the island without consequences…

    1. JAMES November 24, 2019 8:02 am Reply

      Good idea for cars and trucks shipped over here. What about cars already here or sold by dealerships or private sellers? Why not have dealers do this as well? It would add to the cost but worth it in my opinion. Who would take control of the deposit and how would that money be held. Would it be invested? Would the County hold the funds in escrow earning interest? Nice idea though, if the details can be ironed out.

  5. ruthann jones November 22, 2019 6:40 pm Reply

    Note to ‘pay to ship’…better yet, simply record the vin number and charge the last person who registered that vehicle with the fee for removal. Most are locals.

  6. JAMES November 23, 2019 7:44 am Reply

    Hence, the importance of laws and regulations. We can no longer trust individuals and corporations to accept responsibility for their actions. Sad, but true. So we, through our elected government representatives at all levels, need to force responsibility onto those who won’t act responsibly. In addition to penalties for breaking laws and regulations, sometimes we need to use the judicial system as well, as evidenced by Monsanto’s recent guilty plea for intentionally using banned pesticides. Those doing away with regulations are allowing wrongdoers to escape responsibility to the detriment of the rest of us. On Kauai, one step in the right direction would be a law holding the vehicle seller responsible for an abandoned car unless THEY file the transfer documents with the DMV with the buyer information. Currently, it is the buyers responsibility to file those documents and we see how that is not working. It’s truly disappointing that we now have to force people to accept responsibility, but that’s the world we live in.

  7. It'sNotJustTheAVs November 23, 2019 7:22 pm Reply

    Let’s be clear: the abandoned and derelict vehicles are bad enough but they are just a part of this problem.

    We walk along the roads of Upper Kapahi every day. Many, maybe most, of these roads see few, if any, visitors. We see endless amounts of rubbish every day. Tools. Clothes, under and otherwise. Hats. Slippers. Junk mail. Cans. Bottles. Sometimes full. Plastic bags of all sizes. All manner of food wrappers and implements from fast food wrappers and cups, lids, and straws, to grocery items and deli clam shells. Sometimes with the contents only half-eaten. Snack wrapers for every kind of snack available on island. Six pack carriers. 12 pack cartons. Bottle caps, metal and plastic. Car parts. Oil filters, used. Wire and cable. Cigarette butts. Cigarette packs. Lighters. Towels. Plastic storage totes. Full of rubbish. In bags. And not. Small appliances. Bed frames. Mattresses. Broken wooden pallets. Pens. Condom wrappers. Barbecue grills. Coolers. Construction scraps. Lawnmowers. You name it, we’ve probably seen it. We pick up what we can, every morning. And, the next time we are by the same spots, we pick up more of the same. Picking any of it up seems a Sisyphean task many days.

    This uniquely beautiful, tiny, island is our home, not one big rubbish can. Respecting the aina and the heritage means respecting our island, all of it, as well.

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