Over the past 10 years, cigarette smoking in America has decreased 28%, yet cigarette butts are still the most littered item in the U.S. and in the world. Often, people who would never think of littering anything else, will flick a cigarette butt out the car window, drop it on the ground, or stick it in a planter without a second thought. Tobacco products make up almost 40% of all roadway litter in the United States.
Why do smokers litter?
Most often it is a lack of awareness about the environmental impact and lack of ash receptacles. New smoking ordinances are also moving more smokers outdoors to smoke.
Why does it matter?
Cigarette litter is ugly, costly to clean up, and harmful to waterways and wildlife. Residents and businesses “pick up” the tab through more sidewalk, street, and parking lot sweeping, park maintenance, storm drain cleaning, and maintenance of storm water filters. Recreation areas become less attractive. Who wants to see cigarette butts on walking trails, in our parks and picnic areas, or floating in lakes and rivers?
How does it affect the environment?
Cigarette filters are designed to trap poisonous chemicals as the cigarette is smoked. These filters are made of a type of plastic that can take years to biodegrade. They are carried by wind and rain into storm drains and waterways where the trapped chemicals leak into our ecosystems, causing harm to fish and other wildlife. Filters can also be very dangerous if swallowed by small children. With TRILLIONS littered annually, the cost of cleanup and the dangers to the environment quickly add up!
What is the solution?
Smokers should be responsible about how their cigarette litter is handled. Make an effort to find and use an ash receptacle. This insures that the cigarette litter ends up in a landfill where the dangerous chemicals are contained.
KALB has been the recipient of a Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention grant, with which we purchased ash receptacles for walking trails in Athens. We also received a supply of pocket ashtrays which can be used to safely contain cigarette butts until a proper receptacle is found. Smokers are invited to stop by the KALB office at 125 East Street for your free pocket ash tray.