Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Butt what??

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

Did you know that cigarette filters are not biodegradable? So what happens to the hundreds of thousands of cigarette butts that are thoughtlessly tossed out of car windows or stomped onto the sidewalks in front of stores? Hmmm. Have you ever even thought about it?

The issue became more real to me as my daughter, Jessica, and I were taking part in the clean up of Brighton Heights here in Pittsburgh back in April. We walked along the neighborhood in the rain, picking up each and every cigarette butt (and other piece of litter) along the edge of the sidewalks. It was a back-aching task. I couldn't help thinking that there sure are a lot of human pigs around. I just don't get it. Why do people litter? Why do smokers think it is someone else's duty to clean up after them? Why? Like I said, I just don't get it.

Anyway, back to cigarette filters. As it turns out, they are made out of plastic, which of course, can leach miserable chemicals into the water supply (as the rain washes them down the sewage drains) and into the ground. Lovely. It's a real problem.

Enter our friends at TerraCycle. Apparently, an anonymous tobacco company decided to tackle this problem and joined forces with TerraCycle to provide postage paid shipping labels so people all across the country could start sending in their butts. Seriously. TerraCycle will turn those disgusting little cigarette butts into industrial pallets. And that's not all.

According to Wendy Koch, with USA Today, "Today, Eco-Tech Displays is starting a company, Cigarette Butt Litter Dream Recycling, to transform butts into products such as jewelry, vases and guitar picks. It collects the butts from hundreds of ashtrays that it has placed outside bars and restaurants in New York City, New Jersey and Chicago." How cool is that?!

Ohio resident, Blake Burich, of InnovaGreen Systems, recently patented a method for recycling cigarette butts and plans to go nationwide with his program. And he's not alone in his one-person effort to solve this mounting problem. The fact is that 38% of roadside litter is made up solely of, you guessed it, discarded cigarette waste. That's approximately 4.5 trillion butts. Now that is a disgusting fact. 

There are evidently positive efforts being made to eliminate this problem, as mentioned above. There are also some negative deterrents to depositing your butts on the ground. In Portland, Maine, there is a $100 fine if you're caught doing so. In Australia, the fine is $200 for tossing a cigarette out of a car and $60 for stomping it out on the ground. Now that would be an expensive smoke!

On the site Litterbutt.com,  I was intrigued when I read the following (which pertains to any kind of littering, including cigarette butts): 

Let people know you caught them littering! If the person resides in one of the participating States (PA, TX and NC), the person reported will receive a letter from the State notifying them they were caught littering and fines for littering, though no fine levied.

Anyway, I'm glad to see there are folks, and even a tobacco company, that are starting to take this problem seriously. Cigarette butts are not only unsightly, they are also a danger to our health (not to mention our forests, etc.). If you are a smoker, think before you toss!!! This is your world, too. And it's your responsibly, as well as mine, to take care of it.

Keeping it green with less litter,



  1. How awesome! Thanks for sharing and I hope to see this project become very successful!
    I also had no clue that cigarette butts were made of plastic!!!!

  2. Though I don't condone smoking, I love to hear that companies are takin responsibility for their butts. LOL! I also think it's cool that you go out with your daughter to clean up the Earth! :)

    1. Amen! And thanks. My granddaughter was with us as well, but she didn't have gloves, so we wouldn't let her pick anything up!

  3. Thank you for throwing that out there! I get so frustrated when I see people just throwing their butts down or out of the car. It is not my concern if they smoke, just take the time to throw it away correctly. Just because you walk away from it does not mean it is gone. I loved your post!

  4. I get so made when I am driving and see a smoker tossing a butt! Great post and will share.

  5. I heard about this today as well! Thanks for sharing with everyone!

  6. Thanks for sharing this! I am working on a Cigarette Litter Prevention Plan with our City. I am hopeful I will find others like you and I that are willing to clean up after the smokers that dont care! We are in Tx and we do have a program to report littering from vehicles!! Thank you Texas ! I am researching to locate how to get the shipping labels from terraCycle today! Thanks again for caring about our environment!

    1. You're most welcome, Deidra. So glad to hear Texas is trying to get on top of things like this!


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