People are smoking less and less these days, but those who do often resort to dropping their cigarette butts onto the ground. In response to this issue community members such as Megan Rempel (who is a Riverside Alumni) are working towards a solution. She started a project called, ‘The Cigarette Recycling Campaign’ Project, and its goal is to educate people about the environmental impact of cigarette butts, to complete outreach by handing out pocket ashtrays, and to recycle cigarette product waste for money, which is then donated to charity. Pocket ashtrays are a smell proof, sealable pouch that can fit in your pocket or purse. They first became popular at the music festival scene, where they were handed out and reduced cigarette litter by 70%. The pocket ashtray gives smokers a way to not litter toxic products, and also keeps them from smelling like cigarettes. More than half of the fires in BC this year were started by people. When used, the pocket ashtray has the potential to prevent forest fires from occurring.
One cigarette butt that is dropped can contaminate up to 40L of water. The ninety-nine carcinogens that smokers take into their lungs also end up in the filter after smoked, and when littered, it ends up seeping out into the water, or into the stomachs of marine life because they think it’s food.
I rely on my friends, family and community to educate smokers that are in their circles, and spread the word about my cigarette but recycling project. Without the support of those people my project couldn’t have grown to the point that it is now.
Educating people is a key factor of the project. Cigarette butts are the most littered item worldwide, and so it is important to approach this issue with a positive attitude, rather than attacking smokers about bad habits. An act as simple as making friends and family aware of how much of an effect cigarette litter can have on our environment is powerful. “I rely on my friends, family and community to educate smokers that are in their circles, and spread the word about my cigarette but recycling project. Without the support of those people my project couldn’t have grown to the point that it is now,” said Rempel.
Any community member can start their own project by promoting Cigarette issues, and ordering pocket ash trays, “When I first started this initiative a year ago, I thought I was the only one, but eventfully I met many different groups in BC that were just as concerned about the cigarette butt litter issue and working on their own projects,” said Rempel. One of the main groups based in Vancouver that does outreach is the ‘Butt Touchers’. ‘The Butt Touchers’ turned something that’s an important issue into a more fun approach, yet still maintaining the seriousness associated with discarded cigarette butts.
Members of the community can recycle their cigarette butts through a Canadian company called ‘TerraCycle’. ‘TerraCycle’ is funded by the Tobacco companies to help recycle their products waste. Anyone can sign up for the recycling program, and once one is signed up, TerraCycle sends a free pre-paid shipping label that allows one to send their waste for free back to the company. For every three pounds of cigarette butts a person sends in, they get one dollar donated to a charity of their choice. Smokers unite and get your butts out of the environment.