The flick of a cigarette onto pavement, dirt, sand, or water seems harmless. Contrary to popular belief, though, cigarette butts aren’t just made of paper, so they won’t biodegrade or dissolve. A cigarette butt is actually composed of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that only breaks down into smaller, polluting pieces. Not only that, but cigarette butts also contain toxic compounds that can harm ecosystems and water supplies.
A Greener Future, a Canadian organization that seeks to minimize litter, holds nationwide Butt Blitz events where volunteers across the country pick up cigarette butts in their local communities. They have collected over 2 million cigarettes since starting the program in 2015! All that cigarette waste gets sent to us at TerraCycle, where we recycle them to create cool stuff like park benches.
It’s not just A Greener Future that recycles cigarette butts with us, though. Our national UNSMOKE Cigarette Waste Recycling Program recycles butts, filters, tobacco pouches, rolling paper, and cigarette packaging for free. Programs from all over ship their collected waste to us for recycling, but there are some stand-outs. Here are some of our rockstars!
The Downtown Campbell River BIA in British Columbia promotes the area as a vibrant, safe and business-friendly place. Members of the community pick up cigarette butts every day and drop them off to the Downtown BIA for shipping. TerraCycle receptacles have also been installed in front of buildings like the library, town theatre, art gallery, and shopping plaza. In addition, they have a Get the Point Team which helps to pick up garbage all around our community and have joined in the Downtown BIA’s Cigarette Waste Recycling Campaign. They not only pick up cigarette butts but empty the receptacles as well.
A cigarette receptacle in the Downtown area
Based in Jacksonville, Florida, Beaches Go Green (BGG) is a nonprofit organization that provides education and awareness of the impact of waste on our lives. Through TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Recycling Program, the group has been able to collect and recycle over 140,000 cigarette butts. This has been possible through beach and community cleanups in addition to their over 150 collection canisters in the Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, and St. Augustine Beach areas.
A BGG community cleanup success!
Keep Golden Isles Beautiful is responsible for many programs in the Brunswick, Georgia area, including a large cigarette recycling program. Not only have they created a cigarette recycling drop-off program at their office in downtown Brunswick, but they have also established and supported awareness campaigns, like “This is Litter Too” and “Georgia’s Coast is Not an Ashtray.” These programs have promoted cigarette recycling through additional receptacles at parks, downtown areas, and even public restrooms. Outreach activities, signage, and social media also helped these campaigns thrive.
With the help of more than 4,500 Texan volunteers, Keep Denton Beautiful is all about planting trees, keeping gardens, and yes, cleaning litter. They have a robust cigarette litter prevention program, complete with monthly cleanups, butt and ash receptacles, free ashtrays, and educational materials. Early data in the downtown Denton and Fry Street areas shows an average 47% reduction in cigarette litter after cleanups, receptacles, and a social marketing campaign were implemented.
In South Carolina, Keep Charleston Beautiful works to keep a clean and beautiful environment in all areas of Charleston, including the many nearby islands. Because of the many bodies of water in the area, a cigarette litter prevention program was vital. To protect these waters, the group gave businesses and marinas near water tools like cigarette butt receptacles, educational signage, and promotional bumper stickers.
A cigarette butt receptacle hard at work next to Charleston waters
Across the border and into the other Carolina, Keep Hanover Beautiful is diligently keeping its area clean. The organization has partners with local businesses, property owners, and municipalities to recycle their cigarette litter via receptacles and pocket ashtrays. Since starting the project in 2017, they have distributed 270 receptacles and have recycled nearly 1 million cigarette filters!
Whether you’re just getting started or you’re an experienced cigarette collector, these groups can all be a great source of inspiration and encouragement. Each of them started by picking up their first cigarette butt. What better time to pick your first one up during this upcoming Butt Blitz?