Through major cleanups, Matt Lane teaches the public to reduce waste
Matt Lane’s enthusiasm is contagious.
The 31-year-old has successfully organized the Lahaina Town Cleanup since 2004.
His efforts achieved such outstanding results the past five years on the West Side that the volunteer went professional in 2010, organizing as an independent contractor in partnership with Community Work Day Program (CWD) and the Ocean Conservancy’s “Get the Drift and Bag It” campaign for five town cleanups, including Lahaina, Kihei, Central Maui, North Shore (Paia) and Hana.
CWD Executive Director Rhiannon Chandler said Lane was chosen as a contractor because of his “extensive work coordinating special events and mobilizing community members to work on projects on behalf of our environment and our youth.”
With support from the county Department of Parks & Recreation and Department of Environmental Management, CWD and the over 1,000 volunteers island-wide tipped the cleanup collection scales this year with over 34,000 pounds of litter removed, including 962 plastic bags, 1,049 plastic bottles and 13,521 cigarette butts during September and October.
Over 20 miles of Maui coastline were scoured, clearing some far-flung items from the island shoreline, like a porta potty from Japan and a life preserver from Brazil.
The state Department of Transportation assisted in the removal of abandoned vehicles.
“A moray eel and a spiny lobster were both found alive and caught in fishing line, as divers pulled marine waste out of the ocean. Several thousand pounds of fishing net were also cleared,” a CWD announcement cited.
The statistics were compiled by region.
“Lahaina had 181 volunteers. There were so many volunteers that we cleaned up from Olowalu to Honokowai, from the beach to the highway and up Lahainaluna Road,” Lane said.
“We cleaned up 700 pounds of trash, 2,431 cigarette butts and 1,500 tons of green waste from Moku’ula.”
Businesses and other non-profits were an integral part of the battle to eradicate island waste.
“Guys like Goodfellow Brothers came to clean Moku’ula. They went in there and took like ten dump trucks’ worth of loads out of there and brought in two bulldozers,” Lane commented, impressed.
The Surfrider Foundation-Maui Chapter and the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association helped with the purchase of biocompostable supplies and outreach materials.
Other business sponsors were Styrophobia, Tropic Water, Quiksilver, Hurley, Kurt’s Kustom Productions and Volcom.
“Now we have a variety of corporate sponsorship enough to last a long time with products and healthy snacks, biocombustible trash bags, plate ware, etc.,” Lane remarked
“I am fired up about it,” Lane exclaimed.
As CWD’s outreach coordinator, Lane continues with his years-long strategy to reduce the function’s carbon footprint and educate the masses.
“We encourage people to bring their own buckets, their own gloves and a reusable water bottle. We provided aluminum reusable water bottles for people who didn’t have ’em,” he said.
Youth have joined the ranks of West Siders combating the litter overflow.
“There are kids in Lahaina who have been to the cleanup all six years. Some of ’em were in middle school, and they’re in high school now. Some of ’em were in elementary school, and they’re in middle school now,” he said.
“They’re the ones that are learning. I never went to cleanups when I was a kid. I didn’t even know about cleanups. I didn’t think about that. It was different — it was a different time.”
Lane’s tactic is to reduce.
“Recycling is, not in my mind, the focus. If you focus on reduction, you don’t have to worry about recycling. Single use plastics or anything that is single use is sheer laziness,” he remarked.
“We grew up in an era where you get a McDonald’s cup, a plastic container with plastic forks, and everyone throws everything away,” he continued.
“It’s all about reducing and using things that are reusable. Reusable means something’s that permanent. In the old days, they valued being frugal.”
Lane is passionate.
“Nowadays people just waste things — they just waste, waste, waste,” he said
“We’re going to have to go so far backwards to go forward,” he projected.
Art Fillazar is the student activities coordinator at Lahainaluna High School. He speaks highly of Lane and his ambitions.
“Matt has maintained this program to become more than just cleaning up the beaches and streets. He has made it his mission to educate the public about environmental issues. He has provided avenues for learning, especially with ways to recycle and other products available to reduce filling up landfills,” he said.
“He and his team,” Fillazar continued, “have gone beyond the call of duty in providing tools for our young people to learn about their environment and how to protect it. And what is equally commendable is that the community (merchants, businesses, families, etc.) have come out in support of his effort. This has been a grassroots effort with, by and for the Lahaina community. We at Lahainaluna are honored and privileged to be part of this service project.”
County Councilwoman-elect Elle Cochran has worked with Lane since year one of the Lahaina Town cleanups.
“Organizing is not easy, so he has a gift. I like how he utilizes our keiki involvement with the activities — hands-on experience with the cleanups, builds work ethics, camaraderie and a sense of ownership to malama our ‘aina and kai that is so important to our current and future generations,” Cochran said.