Maui’s Kahului Harbor serves many purposes. From being the island’s central commercial hub to attracting surfers, paddlers, visitors and more, almost everyone on-island benefits from this area.
But how often do we get to return the favor?
This month, Maui residents will be able to do just that during Mālama Maui Nui’s Get the Drift and Bag It! Campaign.
On Sept. 16, the local nonprofit is hosting a public cleanup from 9 a.m. until noon at the nearby waterfront to kickoff the annual cleanup initiative.
MMN Executive Director Gabrielle Schuerger invites the public to attend and show respect for a place that embodies the spirit of Get the Drift and Bag It!
“On the surface, Kahului Harbor is an industrial entity that serves an indispensable function in our community- the bringing in and shipping out of goods,” she said. “However, in its most essential form, it is nature. It is the ocean, streams, pohaku, vegetation and marine life. Therefore, it is our kuleana to acknowledge and malama these urban places for what they really are.”
The campaign, which launches every year on the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day, encourages this kind of community stewardship by promoting organized cleanups throughout Maui County. Every year, local businesses and civic groups join forces and form their own neighborhood and beach cleanups while collecting data on the amount and kind of materials found. This information later goes into a database used by researchers, politicians, and more to effect change around our waste and litter issues worldwide.
Maui College’s Student Ohana for Sustainability (SOS) President Alicia Rittenberry said her group plans on attending the kickoff event and is attracted to opportunity to collect data at the harbor. The college club regularly gathers rubbish there as part of the Adopt-A-Highway program, and she believes the use of data and citizen science will help showcase the area’s litter and blight challenges.
“We like Get the Drift and Bag It! because it’s nice to have the data,” she said. “It’s a good way to see what exactly is trashing the area.”
Rittenberry said the group attended last year’s cleanup, and was surprised to find out they collected around 4,000 cigarette butts that day. She said this type of information is needed to help inform and educate the public on waste and its impact on our environment.
“When you’re going to try to change people’s behavior and the way we think about how we live our lives and the products that we use and the way we use them, you’re going to need hard science to back it up,” she said.
That’s been one of the many positive aspects of this campaign since it first started 31 years ago. Since then, hundreds of miles of shoreline have been cleaned and a wide-range of data has been used and gathered on the amount and types of material that ends up along our beaches and in our neighborhoods.
Last year, for instance, volunteers in the Get the Drift and Bag It! Campaign collected almost 9,000 lbs. of rubbish along 20 miles of shoreline. Volunteers at the Kahului Harbor alone picked up almost 2,000 lbs. of material during a three-hour cleanup in 2016.
As the campaign grows each year, Mālama Maui Nui hopes to continue its efforts at the harbor and to inspire Maui County residents to be a part of keeping our public spaces and places clean and safe for future generations.
This year’s Get the Drift and Bag It! campaign will run from Sept. 16 until Oct. 14. Anyone interested in participating may call 808-877-2524 or email [email protected] for more information.
The public is welcome to attend the Kahului Harbor cleanup. Participants under 18 must be accompanied by an adult and/or bring an MMN liability waiver signed by a legal guardian. The event is supported by the County of Maui. MMN also partnered with the Maui Digital Bus, the Pacific Whale Foundation, Maui Huliau Foundation, Iao United Church of Christ, and the Student Ohana for Sustainability for the event.