Keeping the Big Island clean: Volunteers wanted for International Coastal Cleanup Day

  • Volunteer Thomas Lazar hauls away trash collected Aug. 24 at Honokohau Harbor. (Tom Hasslinger/West Hawaii Today, file)

  • Scores of trash, like this pile collected at Old Kona Airport Beach Park last year, will be collected Saturday during International Coastal Cleanup Day. (Courtesy file photo / Jeff Fear)

KAILUA-KONA — The search is on for volunteers to walk, swim, dive and paddle their way to cleaner beaches on the Big Island.

Saturday is International Coastal Cleanup Day, an effort to motivate communities around the world to save their oceans and shorelines from the trash that is currently polluting them.

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On the Big Island, volunteers have several opportunities to participate in the worldwide cleanup.

Local group Keep Puako Beautiful is organizing its annual Get the Drift and Bag It cleanup at 25 various locations in South Kohala on Saturday, with the main cleanup headquarters set up at Hapuna Beach State Park.

The cleanup runs from 7:30-11:30 a.m., and participants can meet and sign up at the Hapuna Beach south pavilion.

In Kailua-Kona town, Jack’s Diving Locker and Big Island Divers are hosting an underwater cleanup dive at Kailua Pier from 8 a.m. to noon. The underwater cleanup is recommended to experienced divers, while participants who are not scuba certified are welcome to participate in the cleanup of shallow water through snorkeling, freediving and kayaking.

A Big Island resident for 40 years, Cynthia Ho, Keep Puako Beautiful’s site coordinator, has participated in every the annual campaigns in Kohala for International Coastal Cleanup Day.

“It needs doing,” Ho said. “I like my community, I like sharing the conservation effort with others and meeting like-minded people. It feels good.”

Volunteers can stay on site at Hapuna Beach, or break off to the other beaches along the coastline. Volunteers will regroup at Hapuna Beach at the end of the cleanup to weigh in and tally the trash collected.

Keep Puako Beautiful recommends volunteers to bring comfortable shoes, reef-safe sunscreen, food and water to the cleanups. Volunteers looking to clean up the trash in the ocean should bring their own gear.

“As far as water cleanup goes, they can snorkel in front of the beach and they can pick up a lot of stuff that way,” Ho said. “On shore, one woman told me she picked up 50 hair bands out of the sand at that beach.”

Ho said Keep Puako Beautiful’s Kohala cleanups will try to utilize anything that can be washed and reused. For example, the cleanups will use reusable grain bags donated from Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea and used coffee bean bags from Waimea Coffee Co.

Cigarette butts found through the cleanup can be separated from the other trash to be sent to the organization TerraCycle to be recycled into new industrial products, such as plastic pallets, and for the tobacco from the cigarette butts to be recycled as compost.

“We try to be a conscious as possible of not creating more waste,” Ho said.

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Volunteers can sign up for the Hapuna Beach cleanup by emailing keeppuakobeautiful@gmail.com.

Free air tanks are available for certified divers at the Kailua Pier cleanup, and can be reserved by calling Jack’s Diving Locker at 329-7585 or by calling Big Island Divers at 329-6068.

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