Cigarette Butts Are Litter, Too!

By: Lynne Hart

Americans are smoking fewer cigarettes than ever before, yet cigarette butts remain the most littered item in the U.S. and around the world.

Smokers who would probably never litter a coffee cup or candy wrapper will often “flick” their cigarette butts without a second thought. Surprisingly, 77% of people surveyed by Keep American Beautiful stated they did not think of cigarette butts as litter. Many people believe cigarette filters are biodegradable, and because of their small size, they appear insignificant – almost invisible. Many smokers truly believe that cigarette butts won’t cause any harm.

Not only are they harmful, but discarded butts are an eyesore. Just look along the curbs and at intersections in our community. They are everywhere!

Filter Facts

The center of most cigarette filters, the part some think is made from cotton, is actually made of a type of plastic called cellulose acetate that can take 18 months to 10 years to decompose. The fibers making up the filter are thinner than sewing thread and a single filter contains more than 12,000 of these fibers.

Cigarette filters were created to absorb some of the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke and to catch solid toxic chemical particles, referred to as tar, created by burning tobacco.

These lightweight, toxin-filled filters are easily carried by wind and rain into our waterways, poisoning living organisms that come into contact with them. The tobacco that may still be attached to the filter adds nicotine to the environment, which is also toxic.

TRILLIONS (that’s 12 zeros) of cigarette filters are littered every year! Five trillion cigarette filters weigh about 2 billion pounds. Although the toxins in one little filter may not seem like much, multiply that by trillions and we have an environmental nightmare on our hands.

Fire is another result of improperly discarded cigarette butts. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, smoking materials such as cigarettes and cigars cause around 90,000 fires every year in the United States. These fires cost hundreds of lives, injure even more, and cause millions of dollars in property damage.

FREE Ash Receptacles

Businesses: KALB has a limited supply of metal ash receptacles available to businesses in Athens and Limestone County. They are not freestanding and must be mounted to a post or pole. (see photo.) The receptacles are free to businesses that agree to maintain them.

Individuals: KALB also has a supply of ash receptacles that will fit in a vehicle’s cup holder that are available to Athens-Limestone residents.

Call us, send an email, or drop in if you are interested in helping to reduce the amount of cigarette litter in our community through the use of one of these receptacles.

We can make a difference, one concerned citizen at a time.
By: Lynne Hart
Executive Coordinator – Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful