In the past decade, cigarette smoking in America has decreased by 28%, yet cigarette butts remain the most littered item–in the U.S. and across the globe.¹ Dropping cigarette butts to the ground, putting them in planters, and disposing of them in waterways is littering. The overall littering rate for cigarette butts is 65%, and tobacco products comprise 38% of all U.S. roadway litter.
Dropping cigarette butts, matches, lighters, and packaging to the ground is littering!
Why do smokers litter?
Mostly, it’s limited ash receptacles and a lack of awareness about the environmental impact. New ordinances are also moving more smokers outdoors. In Pearland, we have a smoking ban, but there seems to be some confusion about where a business can place an ash receptacle.
Here’s why cigarette litter matters: it’s unsightly, costly to clean up, and harmful to waterways and wildlife.
Keep Pearland Beautiful is now recycling cigarette butts via three public drop-off receptacles in the City of Pearland.
- Stella Roberts Recycling Center near the front Door
- Justice of Peace Office on 2436 S. Grand Blvd, Pearland, TX 77581
- Pearland Community Center on 3523 Liberty Dr, Pearland, TX 77581
Collect your butts and drop them off!
- Cigarette litter has to be cleaned up. This requires additional sidewalk and street sweeping, greenway and park maintenance, storm drain cleaning, and increased maintenance of stormwater filters. And business owners bear the expense of cigarette litter cleanup around entrances, exits, sidewalks, and parking lots.
- Not paying attention to quality-of-life issues can result in a decline in a city’s foot traffic, tourism, business development, and housing. Focusing on small improvements, like reducing cigarette litter, creates safer and more economically vibrant communities.
- A cigarette butt dropped to the ground seems insignificant. But follow that butt as it’s 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.
- It accumulates in gutters, and outside doorways and bus shelters. Increasing amounts of litter in a business district or recreation area create a sense that no one cares, leading to more community disorder.
- About 95% of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic which does not quickly degrade and can persist in the environment.
- About 18% of litter, traveling primarily through stormwater systems, ends up in local streams, rivers, and waterways. Cigarette litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food.
- According to an Australian EPA survey, three-quarters of respondents say that littering is a ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’ environmental issue. Yet, 56% of the debris found in the U.S. originated from land-based activities such as picnics, festivals, sports, and days at the beach. Litter washed from streets, parking lots, and storm drains also contributed to this category of debris. Source: Ocean Conservancy Report 2009.
- Only 10% of cigarette butts are properly deposited in ash receptacles-the least likely item to be placed in a receptacle. (Source: Beverage Industry Environment Council. Community Change Pty Ltd. Understanding Littering Behavior in Australia, June 1997.)
- Smokers discount the impact. A 2008 survey of over 1,000 smokers found that 35% toss five or more cigarette butts per pack on the ground. Source: iQ Research & Consulting, Keep America Beautiful Pocket Ashtray Study, January 2008. Because a cigarette butt is small, smokers tend to overlook the consequences of littering.Source: McGregor Marketing for Keep Australia Beautiful, 1998.
Cigarette litter research in Australia found that many smokers:
- Don’t believe littering their cigarette butts is inappropriate behavior. Some believe they’re acting responsibly by dropping cigarettes to the ground and stepping on them to extinguish them.
- Consider dropping butts into gutters or storm drains a safe way to extinguish a cigarette. Blame their littering on a lack of well-placed bins for cigarette butts. Over 80% of smokers said they would properly dispose of their butts if suitable bins were available. (Source: Sweeney Research for Tobacco Information Centre and Keep South Australia Beautiful, 2000.)
- Blame their littering on a lack of well-placed bins for cigarette butts. Over 80% of smokers said they would properly dispose of their butts if suitable bins were available.
Most cigarette littering happens at “transition points.” These are areas where a smoker must extinguish a cigarette before proceeding, such as outside retail stores, hotels, office buildings, and at bus shelters and train platforms. Messages about cigarette butt litter and ash receptacles at transition points are an important catalyst to changing behavior.
- Keep Pearland Beautiful is partnering with Terracyle to recycle cigarette butts in 2020. KPB will be collecting cigarette butts from local receptacles and shipping them off for recycling. If you wish to drop off cigarette butts at the KPB offices, please package the butts in a freezer type ziplock bag.