Cindy's Blog March 29 "Watch your butt!"



I have a new mission and it is all about cigarette butts. I have become obsessed with the numbers of butts everywhere I look. Enter a store/mall/restaurant and look down to count the numbers of butts that have been thoughtlessly tossed. Why do car drivers think that the butt they toss out their window is our responsibility-you smoke, it’s your garbage? It is litter people, and I am going to work to up the awareness that cigarette butts are litter and the fines apply.

I sometimes wonder if it’s lack of education that causes many smokers to litter without giving it a second thought. It’s astounding how many people who would likely not otherwise drop garbage on the ground see nothing wrong with flicking butts without regard for where they land. It may seem trivial, but it’s not. I know that the ground is covered with discarded cigarette butts and it is disrespectful, but have you ever given any thought to how much the collection of them amounts to or how harmful they are to wildlife and people?


According to the Surfrider ( Foundation’s Hold on to Your Butt campaign, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with 4.95-trillion tossed onto the ground or water every year. The U.S. spends about $11-billion a year on litter clean-up, and 32 per cent of that is butts. They’re washed from the streets into storm drains and rivers and eventually to oceans and are the most prevalent type of debris collected in beach clean-ups around the world.

The environmental impacts are nothing to sneeze at, either. Surfrider notes that cigarette butts are made of “cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable plastic, which can take up to 25 years to decompose.” The toxic butts can be ingested by children and animals, especially birds and marine animals. I resisted posting really gross photos of dissected fish and birds with their bellies full of butts…you are welcome!

In a study performed by Elli Slaughter of San Diego State University, a single cigarette butt that had traces of tobacco was introduced to a liter of water filled with fish. This resulted in high toxicity levels, and the death of 50% of the fish in the water. This is the result of one little cigarette butt. Think of what they are doing to our oceans. There are a number of approaches to preventing, mitigating, and reducing butt waste in the environment, including (in no particular order):

Labeling. For example: “Cigarette filters are non-biodegradable toxic waste. Disposal of filters should be in accordance with provincial law”. Harsher words might get people’s attention! Waste fees/taxes on each cigarette package: These are intended to pay for the costs of recycling the item and disposing properly of any non-recyclable material. Examples now include electronics.

Litigation. Litigation has been pursued against manufacturers of products that damage the environment, and this might be a source for class action suits with cigarette manufacturers to recover the costs of cleanup and for the negligence and nuisance caused by butt waste.

Fines. Levied against consumers or producers who knowingly or unknowingly discard butts into the environment. That is my mission! Banning single use filters. Although the tobacco industry has tried for years to produce a marketable biodegradable filter, they cannot do so. Instead, the simplest answer to the non-biodegradable filters attached to 98% of all commercial cigarettes sold is to simply ban sales of single use filtered cigarettes. Filters have absolutely no health benefit and have been associated with deeper inhalation of carcinogens and a resultant increase in cancer risk since the widespread deceptive marketing of filtered cigarettes.

Consumer education. Smokers incorporate butt disposal into their smoking ritual, ignoring the environmental consequences. Public information and stronger enforcement of non-smoking environments and anti-litter laws may de-normalize this irresponsible behavior. Anti-litter laws, that’s my cue. I am on it! I have only just begun, but for now I will keep honking at people who throw out butts from their cars and lecturing people who throw them on the ground.

I hope you read until the end because I just found the greatest site can report a litterer…so exciting!!!;jsessionid=2B5F260676E0129D0646F0FB5CD239D9

I reported a Subaru Forester today that threw a butt out his window and received this reply… Your report has been recorded and is now made public and available to local and provincial authorities. Penalties for littering vary across the country and they are already as high as $1000 for cigarette butt littering. I am working with the authorities and hope they will soon make use of these records. Thank you for your effort and care for the community and the environment. Please come back!

Oh, you bet I will!!