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Reducing Common Litter with Ashtrays

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis Green were awarded a grant from Keep America Beautiful this spring to work to decrease cigarette litter throughout Annapolis. Working through the Alliance’s Project Clean Stream scope to decrease litter throughout the Chesapeake Bay, this grant will help install 7 cigarette receptacles and start a research campaign to understand where smokers leave their cigarette butts and how can we prevent this by installing cigarette receptacles. Cigarette litter represents 32% of all outdoor litter, a large percentage with an easy solution, proper receptacles.

The Alliance and Moms Organic Market pick up over 2,500 cigarette butts in just 2 hours of work at a light rail station for Project Clean Stream in 2015.

Cigarette butts are more than an unsightly litter problem. 95% of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a plastic that does not degrade quickly. Plastic pieces from cigarette butts, in addition to other broken down plastic debris, have been found in the stomachs of birds and marine creatures that ingest them with their food. Additionally, rain causes the chemicals in cigarette butts to leach out and create slurry of toxic chemicals that present a biohazard to all animals.

 

Cigarette butts also have a huge economic impact when landscapers, maintenance officials and business owners spend hours picking butts and litter up instead of working on planting trees or running their business. State budgets are also impacted when highway departments nationwide spend millions of dollars picking up roadside trash every year.

One cigarette butt is toxic to wildlife, though they are one of the most prolific items of litter. Photo courtesy of Steven Jenkins/Flickr)

Project Clean Stream asks volunteers to count specific items each year, this year we asked them to count cigarette butts to help the Alliance point out the impact of cigarette butts Chesapeake Bay Wide and not just Annapolis. Site captains have been reporting an average of 400 cigarette butts at their cleanup sites, with sites that have higher foot traffic reporting many more. During a cleanup with Project Clean Stream sponsor MOM’s Organic Market, 4 volunteers collected more than 2,500 cigarette butts from a Baltimore Light Rail Station in 2 hours showing the visual and environmental impact cigarettes can have at one small site.

 

Several sites in Annapolis have already been identified as target locations for this project, including bars, marinas and restaurants. Studies have shown that the highest proportion of cigarette butts are dropped at transition points between activities, like getting out of a car or entering a building. With this knowledge the Alliance will conduct a cigarette litter survey of the area to determine high traffic areas for smokers and pinpoint the best location for cigarette receptacles.

Wall mounted ashtrays at building entryways should help reduce inappropriate disposal of cigarette butts. Photo courtesy of Neil Lathwood/Flickr)

In addition to installing receptacles for cigarette butts, the Alliance and Annapolis Green have pocket and cup holder ash trays. With these we hope to promote behavior change in smokers to place their butts in these different receptacles until they find a suitable disposal site instead of the sidewalk. Please contact the Alliance if you are interested in receiving a portable ash tray.

For more information on this grant program visit Keep America Beautiful’s website www.preventcigarettelitter.org

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Abbi Huntzinger Maryland Restoration Program Manager, Maryland & DC Office

As the Maryland Restoration Program Manager, Abbi supports the development, design, and implementation of in-the-ground projects that help improve the waterways, habitat, and communities throughout Maryland. She is a Registered Landscape Architect who strives to balance both building strong projects and partnerships.

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