“You get into the harbor and see a bunch of rubbish floating around the wharf right next to the canoes, and then on the inside, a bunch of that rubbish floating around the area. As I am standing there is rubbish right around here too, with plastic forks, cigarette butts. It’s just heavy and all over the island,” said Hōkūleʻa crewmember Sam Kapoi.
“You see a lot of littering everywhere, inside the streams, along the roadsides, and it’s sad that our people are continuously throwing trash out of their vehicles and also just dumping trash here and there instead of putting it in the trash bins,” said Ioane Tumonogi, Chief of Solid Waste Officer and Brownfields Coordinator.
“I feel like the littering problem is a huge issue because of the “monkey see, monkey do mentality”. You see someone do it, and then you think it’s okay for yourself to do it,” said Kapoi.
To use this kind of mentality to their advantage, American Sāmoa’s Environmental Protection Agency has put together a campaign that educates and encourages the Sāmoan people to put trash where it belongs. This effort is called “Keep American Sāmoa Beautiful”.
“Keep American Sāmoa Beautiful started in 2012. That’s when I put together a program to address the problem that we have here in American Sāmoa. With this campaign, what we did was go out there in the community. We did ads on the paper asking schools, faith organizations, youth groups, and church companies to come out and adopt a roadside or a stream. And so basically we had them fill out an application to tell us the location of where they want to adopt, and then what EPA did was provide them with gloves and trash bags to do their cleanups. Also, we installed recognition signs and billboards here and there to show communities and the public what these individuals and what these groups are doing to make a difference here in American Sāmoa,” said Tumonogi.
With more ads, the Environmental Protection Agency hopes to draw in more committed participants, like ʻIolani Misipeka.
“The area that I adopted in this program is roughly five hundred yards on both sides of the streets. I heard of this adopt the stream or roadside program last year in October. It was advertised through the newspaper, so I felt that this was a good time for me to get involved, to clean up the environment and to clean up our island. It’s a small island. It’s our home. Let’s do something to make it beautiful and keep it the way it is for future generations,” said ʻIolani Misipeka, a resident of American Sāmoa.
“You see some place that you love, especially if you’re from a certain village, adopt the village, and clean up that area to show that you can contribute to society and lead by example by not littering and picking up. Not picking up your trash but handling your trash the right way,” said Kapoi.
“People are now putting their trash in the bins. It’s because they see these groups out there cleaning up. They see them picking up the trash and it’s wonderful that the public are appreciative of what people are trying to do.” said Tumonogi.