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Cigarettes are most common litter
Keep Liberty Beautiful
0628 cigarettes collected
More than 400 cigarette butts were collected in a two-block area in downtown Hinesville during a recent cleanup. - photo by Photo provided.
Last summer, with the help of local downtown Hinesville merchants and the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, Keep Liberty County Beautiful did an awareness campaign about cigarette litter.
For a few months, we focused on public awareness articles and signs, placing 25 cigarette butt receptacles around the downtown area. With the help of local merchants, we passed out almost 1,000 pocket ashtrays to smokers. The results were significant.
By comparing a litter scan from before our campaign to one from after our efforts, we determined there had been a 40 percent reduction in the amount of cigarette litter in a two block area of downtown.
This summer, we are again kicking off an awareness campaign regarding this nasty litter problem — sort of a summer rerun, you might say. Our initial scan this summer indicates litter is still holding at that 40 percent reduction one year after the original campaign. That is fantastic, but I believe we can do even better.
Cigarette litter may be small but it is really gross. No litter is good litter and there’s nothing yuckier than seeing sidewalks and curbs “decorated” with cigarette butts, disposable lighters, matches and cigarette packaging. Even though cigarette smoking has been on the decline in the last several decades, cigarette litter is a growing problem.
Cigarette litter accounts for 20 percent of the collected trash items in community cleanups. It is the most common litter in the world. During the past few years, ordinances around the country have restricted smoking in public places and rightly so.
But, because smokers have often been forced outside, cigarette litter on sidewalks, parking lots and streets has increased
Studies show that people who would never consider tossing a beverage can or fast food packaging on the ground may very well drop cigarette litter — several times a day — without even thinking about it. Surprisingly, many smokers simply don’t consider “flicking that butt” on the ground or out of a car window littering.
Well, yes, it is litter and it is against the law. It also has detrimental consequences for our environment, and it is costly to clean up.
About 95 percent of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate. That sounds tasty, doesn’t it? It’s a form of plastic that does not quickly degrade. These cigarette butts can take from two years to 24 years to decompose. When tossed on the ground, this litter can pose a health hazard for animals who mistake it for food.
One research study estimates that 18 percent of all litter dropped on the ground is washed into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans by stormwater runoff. Cigarette butts are light and are easily carried in runoff to our local waterways. With the amount of rain we have had lately, the amount of litter entering our waters as runoff is significant.
Only 10 percent of used cigarette butts are actually deposited in proper receptacles, so I guess we know where the other 90 percent ends up. Cigarette litter often accumulates around “transition points,” which are areas where a smoker has to extinguish and discard a cigarette before proceeding, such as entry points to stores, offices, restaurants and other public buildings. Often, there are no receptacles available in these areas for disposal. So, a simple fix can be to determine where receptacles are needed and place them in those areas.  
Another simple fix is to make smokers aware that there are portable ashtrays available. They can be carried in pockets or placed in cars. Last week, at a cleanup at the I-95 exit manned by Target Distribution Center volunteers, we saw countless cigarette butts at the ramps. Smokers, please use portable ash trays and stop tossing your cigarettes out when you come to a corner or a red light. You can get these ashtrays for free from KLCB, so keep our corners clean and dispose of your butts properly.
So how can nonsmokers help? Get the word out: stop tossing cigarette litter on the ground! Share this message with smokers you know. Get free pocket ashtrays for all the smokers you know — friends, co-workers and family members.
If you work at a local business or public agency, place receptacles at entries and in designated smoking areas. We can all make a difference in reducing cigarette litter in downtown Hinesville and all of Liberty County. This is one of many ways we can make our community a cleaner, healthier and more attractive place to live and work. We have a great community here. Let’s not trash it.
Upcoming KLCB events that need your help:

• Nominations for Win-dex Awards for Attractive Businesses of the Quarter will be accepted through Junes 30. Contact Keep Liberty Beautiful for a form or information.

For more information on Keep Liberty County Beautiful programs, contact Swida at 368-4888 or
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