It’s a Beach—Not an Ashtray!

May 27, 2016, 1:58 PM HST
* Updated May 27, 2:00 PM
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Waipio_CigButtsYour beach mat is positioned just right. Your favorite suntan lotion is in hand.

The waves of the azure Pacific Ocean gently roll onto the sandy shore. Gentle trade winds offer a cooling breeze to help keep you comfortable as the mid day Hawaiian sun beams down on you.

You are sitting on a beach in Hawai‘i, ready to relax, unwind and let all the stresses of life disappear for just a little while.

You start rubbing your feet in the sand because it feels so good, as you are mesmerized by the scene in front of you.

Then, suddenly, they start popping out of the sand. Not just one, two or three… but lots of them.


Cigarette butts! You start to take a closer look at the sandy beach and you immediately begin to see them everywhere.


This is not a smokers vs. non smokers issue. This discussion is simply meant to bring to light the facts about cigarette butt litter and its impact on our beautiful beaches and ‘āina here in Hawai‘i and on our planet.

Hawai‘i is known for having some of the world’s best beaches and cleanest waters to swim in… not to mention the amazing snorkeling offshore along our coral reefs.

But, how long will it remain that way if people continue to discard their cigarette butts out on the ‘āina,—the land we love?


Did you know that the cotton-like fiber—the cigarette’s filter—is actually made of cellulose acetate fibers—a form of plastic? Approximately 95% of cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate.

Cellulose acetate is very slow to degrade in the environment on its own. It can take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years. It depends on the environment it is in, dry vs. wet and cold vs. hot.

The chemicals in a used cigarette butt are even more harmful then an unused one.

Every year, smokers throw billions of cigarette butts directly into the environment worldwide. You don’t have to look far to see them outside of buildings, on streets, in parking lots and on our beaches.

Imagine how many of them make their way to the ocean here in Hawai‘i via our storm drains. The numbers tell the true story. While these are worldwide stats, they provide a mind-boggling picture.

  • Cigarette butts are the most common type of litter on this planet.
  • 50% of litter collected on the streets of Australia is cigarette butts.
  • Worldwide, approximately 10 million cigarettes are purchased every minute.
  • 15 billion are sold every day.
  • Approximately 5 trillion are produced and used every year.
  • 5 trillion cigarette filters weigh approximately 2 billion pounds.

Everything about cigarettes threatens life on our beloved planet. They pollute the‘ āina we live on and the air we breathe—not to mention it slowly poisons us as humans if we smoke them.

If you chose to smoke that is your choice. This article is not meant to argue that point.

All we aim to do is bring to light the problem that faces our ‘āina.

Let’s all do our part to protect the ‘āina that provides us with so much… not just for today, but for future generations.

Do your part in keeping our beaches and ‘āina beautiful. In this case, it doesn’t just take a village… it’s going to take an entire planet.

This article is part of a weekly BigIslandNow.com series by KAPA Hawaiian FM personality Darde Gamayo.

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