Cigarettes are not only bad for the health of smokers, they are also a major source of pollution.
Considered to be Canada’s most common form of litter, cigarette butts are nonbiodegradable, contain plastics, are toxic to wildlife, and cause fires.
With that in mind, an Alexandria environmentalist is urging businesses and organizations to acquire “Zero Waste Boxes” distributed by TerraCycle, a Toronto firm that recycles the “non-recyclable.”
Although the number of tobacco users has decreased over the years, there are countless quantities of discarded cigarette butts littering public spaces, notes Deborah Waddell.
“A lot of people do not look at cigarette butts as being plastic,” she poiintes out. In fact, the filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that is also found in eyeglass frames, playing cards and film.
The zero waste containers come with prepaid UPS shipping labels. So no postage is paid when the boxes are full and are returned to TerraCycle, where the butts will be recycled.
“I see a lot of butts on sidewalks and in streets, even though employers do provide butt containers for their employees,” says Ms. Waddell.
About 40 per cent of used butts get flicked into the environment, adds Ms. Waddell, who initiated Glengarry Earth Day earlier this year and has formed a local branch of Green Drinks, a group “open to anyone who wants to discuss environmental issues and solutions.”
Cigarette butts are not viewed as being a big problem, “until we see images of a bird trying to feed one to its baby,” notes Ms. Waddell, referrign to scene that went viral on social media.
She is awaiting word from North Glengarry Township on her request that the municipality participate in the butt recycling project.
“TerraCycle can work with you, your city government, individual organizations, events, and businesses to set up public or private on-site recycling programs for waste streams of your choice,” the company says. “Although cigarette waste is the most common waste stream cities are recycling with us, we also offer a variety of other programs that we can work with you to recycle.”
TerraCycle says, “Whether it's coffee capsules from your home, pens from a school, or plastic gloves from a manufacturing facility,” it can collect and recycle almost any form of waste.
Any ban on single-use plastics must include butts, argues Physicians for a SmokeFree Canada.
The group contends that public ashtrays have not only been proven ineffective, but also send the wrong public health message since they “re-normalize” smoking.