Cigarette butt litter continues to be a worldwide issue. Littered butts can be found everywhere. On the Island of Hawai‘i, and everywhere else, this litter is found on the shoreline, beaches, parks, roadways. Butts end up in the stomachs of fish, sea turtles, birds, pets and even children. Cigarette butts are NOT biodegradable. They are made of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that remains in the environment for 10-25 years leaching toxic chemicals into the earth and oceans.
The Island of Hawai‘i is currently in drought conditions leaving the dry brush along the highways and neighborhoods ripe for wildfires. Nearly all (90%) wildfires are started by people. Just one lit cigarette butt flicked out a car window could start a massive wildfire devastating land, homes, farms, native forests, watersheds, while also creating soil conditions that are unstable. When the rain does come, the burnt land runoff pours into the ocean bringing debris and sediment, including black ash, from burned vegetation. This runoff is detrimental to fish and other aquatic life by smothering habitat upon which these organisms depend.
West Hawai‘i Tobacco Free Partnership is collaborating with the Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization to get messages out about how cigarette butts can cause wildfires. This 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Waimea, Hawaii works statewide with numerous partners ranging from first responders to large landowners to community members to health professionals to protect communities and natural resources from the growing threat of wildfires across the state and parts of Western Pacific.
Winter drought means more wildfires. Be alert and prepared.
- Dry conditions significantly increase wildfire risk in Hawai‘i.
- Wildfires are a frequent, year-round hazard across Hawai‘i.
- Nearly all wildfires are started by people – “Hold On To Your Butts”
- Drought during past El Niños led to some of Hawaii’s largest wildfires on both windward and leeward sides.
People can refer to the Ready, Set, Go! Action Guide to learn how to prepare for and prevent wildfires at: http://www.hawaiiwildfire.org/fire-resource-library-blog/rsg-your-personal-wildland-fire-action-guide
Cigarette Butt Litter: http://www.longwood.edu/cleanva/cigbuttimpacts.htm
Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization: www.hawaiiwildfire.org
New Mexico Department of the Environment: https://www.env.nm.gov/swqb/Wildfire/index.html
U.S. National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/fire/wildland-fire/learning-center/fire-in-depth/wildfire-causes.cfm