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Cigarette litter is nasty
Keep Liberty Beautiful
Karen Bell
Keep Liberty Beautiful Executive Director Karen Bell.

One of the most challenging elements that businesses have to grapple with to maintain their outside cleanliness is the cigarette litter that unwitting customers dispose of in parking areas and sidewalks.  For businesses it is a never ending issue.

Many local businesses have to clean these areas every day. No butts about it: cigarette litter is nasty! We encourage all smokers to give our local businesses and municipalities one of the nicest gifts of all, dispose of your cigarette litter appropriately. Just in case you have not figured it out: the ground is NOT an appropriate dumping site for your cigarette butts!

It is ironic. In the past decade, cigarette smoking in America has decreased 28 percent, yet cigarette butts still remain the most littered item. Heads up folks! Dropping cigarette butts and cigar tips to the ground, putting them in planters and disposing of them in waterways is littering.

The overall littering rate for cigarette butts is 65 percent. Unfortunately tobacco products comprise 38 percent of all U.S. roadway litter. Much of this nasty and unhealthy litter ends up in our waterways. How would you like to drink a big glass of cigarette butt water? The Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 International Coastal Cleanup showed cigarette butts as the most littered item, representing 32 percent of all items collected.

I am sure that for a smoker that cigarette butt or cigar tip dropped to the ground seems insignificant. But follow that butt as it, and many more, are carried off by rain into storm drains and eventually to streams and rivers. It now adds up to a big impact on the places we live. In fact 32 percent of litter at storm drains is tobacco products. It is a serious environmental concern.

About 95 percent of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic which does not quickly degrade and can persist in the environment for decades. Filters are harmful to waterways and wildlife. Nearly 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources. Cigarette butt litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food.

It also creates blight by accumulating in gutters, sidewalks, parking lots, outside doorways and at bus shelters. Increasing amounts of litter in a business district, along riverfronts, or recreation areas create a sense that no one cares. Consistent research about litter and vandalism indicates that little things matter. Lack of care matters.

The Broken Windows Theory and subsequent research in the last several decades indicates that neighborhoods and business districts need to be clean and taken care of. Smart communities know that if they fix problems when they are small, they will not escalate into bigger problems for their community.

We think that most smokers flick their litter because they are not aware about the environmental impact. They also have “an out of sight out of mind” attitude if there are not enough ash receptacles around. Neither of these are sufficient reasons to litter.

We want to encourage all smokers to be “environmentally responsible smokers.” Don’t flick it! Make the effort to dispose of cigarette litter and all litter responsibly in a garbage can or ash receptacle; and not on the ground.


Want to learn more about fighting cigarette litter? Contact Keep Liberty Beautiful at 912-880-4888.

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