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Help stamp out cigarette litter
Keep Liberty Beautiful
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Cigarette litter may be small but it is really nasty. No litter is good litter, but there is nothing messier 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. Although it is small, cigarette litter accounts for 20 percent of the collected litter items in community cleanups. Recent ordinances around the country have restricted smoking in public places and have forced smokers outside.  Although these ordinances are certainly a positive step from a health standpoint, increased cigarette litter on sidewalks, parking lots, and streets has been an unfortunate consequence of this change.
Studies show that persons who would never consider tossing something like 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 have not considered ‘flicking that butt’ on the ground or out a car window as 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? This is a form of plastic that does not quickly degrade. Estimates are that these cigarette butts can take from two years to twenty-four 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 eighteen percent of all litter dropped on the ground is washed into streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean 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 — thanks to Hurricane Fay — the amount of litter entering our waters as runoff can be significant. Compounding this is the fact that many smokers mistakenly toss butts in to storm drains, thinking that they will be processed and removed. Rain water and anything thrown in these drains actually go directly to our waters unfiltered. So litter then pollutes our waters and again poses a health hazard for fish and other marine life who may mistake it for food.
Only ten percent of used cigarette butts are actually deposited in litter receptacles, so I guess we know where the other 90 percent end up. Cigarette litter often accumulates around ‘transition points’. Transition points are areas where a smoker has to extinguish and discard a cigarette before proceeding, like designated smoking areas and entry points to stores, offices, restaurants, and other public buildings and retail establishments. Often, there are simply not ash receptacles available in these areas for disposal. So a simple fix can be to determine where receptacles are needed and place them in those appropriate areas. We are adding twenty-five additional ones downtown through the grant we have.
Another simple fix is to make smokers aware that there are portable ashtrays available for smokers to carry in their cars as well as the pocket ash tray type. We have given out more than 800 of the portable ashtrays in the downtown area. We still have these ashtrays — for free — at a number of locations in downtown Hinesville. These little pocket ash trays are a sturdy hard plastic and a convenient size that just slips right into your pocket. So if you smoke or would like to get some for smokers you know, give me a call at 368-4888.
Why go to all the trouble? The cleanup of cigarette litter is an increasingly significant expense for communities and businesses where this litter occurs.
In cleanups, this type of litter is time consuming to collect because of its small size. Longwood College in Virginia determined that it cost the college $50,000 a year just to clean up cigarette litter. And we wonder why college tuition is so high. Don’t you think that the money and manpower that businesses and towns and agencies have to devote to cleaning up this type of litter could be better spent elsewhere?
So how can you help?  Get the word out to those you know: 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, family members and even yourself.  If you are a local business or public agency, make sure you have adequate ash 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 that we can make our community a cleaner, healthier, and more attractive place to live and work. Cigarette litter is too nasty for a community like ours.
This is the 100th column for Keep Liberty Beautiful. I just wanted to thank The Coastal Courier for allowing our program the space to provide this information for our community. We truly appreciate their commitment to a cleaner and healthier community.

Current Keep Liberty Beautiful projects that need your involvement:

• Oct. 25: Rivers Alive in Liberty County. Mark the date on your calendar now to help with this annual event!
• Liberty County: Home of the world’s largest crayon. Please help us make this Guinness Book of World Records project a reality by calling 368-4888 or e-mail We have more than 700 pounds of crayons now, but we need your help as we collect even more used crayons to create this giant crayon this fall.

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