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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 17, 2006

'Tita' knows best when it comes to litter on Maui

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Radio personality Kathy "Tita" Collins says one good thing about all the appliances and mattresses dumped on the sides of roads in Maui County is that they hide all "da cigarette butts and dirty diapahs."

Mayor's Anti-litter Task Force

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To report illegal dumping, call Maui police at (808) 244-6400; to sign up for the Department of Transportation's Adopt-a-Highway program on Maui, call (808) 873-3535; for more information, call the Recycle Maui County hot line at (808) 270-7880 on Maui, (800) 272-0117 on Moloka'i, or (800) 272-0125 on Lana'i, or go to www.co.maui.hi.us.

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WAILUKU, Maui Maui County has a well-organized cadre of businesses and community groups engaged in beautification efforts, but a new anti-litter campaign is calling the public at large to action.

"There's trash in the gulches, trash at the beach, and even when you go swimming there's trash on the bottom of the ocean," Mayor Alan Arakawa said yesterday in announcing the formation of the Mayor's Anti-litter Task Force.

A new promotional campaign with the slogan "Listen to Tita. No littah!" stars radio personality and county employee Kathy "Tita" Collins.

In her best pidgin, Collins yesterday decried seeing "bus-up cahs, rusted-out stoves and puka-kine mattresses with their guts hanging out," saying the only good thing about the 'opala is that it "hides da cigarette butts and dirty diapahs" tossed on the side of the road.

The "Tita" character will be making public appearances on behalf of the anti-litter campaign and will be featured in newspaper and radio ads and on posters, road signs and bumper stickers.

Although the promotional campaign has a humorous bent, Arakawa said he wants to remind the public that litter is no laughing matter.

"Litter is not a joke," he said. "It is not funny and it is not going to be tolerated. It's high time to take a strong position as a community that this is not acceptable behavior."

To that end, police and prosecutors are asking for the public's help in reporting suspected dumpers. Police said a tip last month led to the arrest of a man who left two abandoned cars at Nakalele Point and the discovery of a makeshift tow truck that was being used to haul junk cars to dumping grounds.

County Public Works Director Milton Arakawa said 2,188 cars were abandoned on public roads from October through March. He said the county has initiated a new push to recoup the costs of hauling away these vehicles, targeting those who leave junk cars at known dumping spots or who abandon multiple vehicles. Twenty-three letters demanding reimbursement ranging from $305 to $651 have been sent out, he said, with six providing payments so far. Nonpayment will result in the matter being referred to a collection agency and a fine of up to $1,000.

The dumping of old appliances has been another litter headache on Maui. A county-sponsored weekend appliance drop-off event last year collected 55 shipping containers of discarded stoves, refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines and other appliances.

Recycling coordinator Hana Steel said the county is looking at "take-back" legislation that would require appliance retailers to haul away old appliances from customers. Steel said another idea is to establish a full-service refuse center at the Central Maui landfill to accept all kinds of rubbish, including appliances. The county also is negotiating with the union representing refuse workers to establish a crew dedicated to bulky-item pickup, since fewer workers are needed to staff the automated residential trash pickup program being phased in across Maui.

Arakawa said he also would like to see the county move toward universal trash pickup, meaning all households would receive refuse collection services, not just those who pay a fee, as is the case now. The cost for universal pickup would be funded through real property taxes.

On the education front, the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel and the Westin, Marriott and Sheraton properties in Ka'anapali are donating 10 laptop computers loaded with anti-litter lessons to the Community Work Day program, which will loan them out to schools. Other plans include a poster contest, teacher training workshops and a speakers bureau.

The task force issued a call for additional volunteers for the state Department of Transportation's Adopt-a-Highway program. Fifty-five groups already are participating, covering most of the island's state highways. But because the program requires that each group conduct only four cleanups per year, there is room for additional work to be done at other times, officials said.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.