Your Green Life: "Butting In For The Environment"

By KBJR News 1

November 8, 2012 Updated Nov 8, 2012 at 12:02 PM CDT

You see them every where, in cracks, grass, sidewalks and storm sewers. There is no doubt that cigarette butts make up one of the largest groups of litter found in the urban environment.

Andrea Crouse, the coordinator for the Beach Sweep Program told me, "We found 4,500, at this point, and that's not rounding."

But the tallies are still coming in from the program.

"I would expect it to be close to 5,000 cigarette butts collected in the 2012 beach sweep." Said Crouse

"Already in walking this little stretch of sidewalk I have found 23 cigarette butts that I picked up. And look, there's one more!" I say while walking in Canal Park.
But not only is the sight of these little litter bugs unpleasant, but they are also toxic to the environment.

"That litter is going to end up flushing into the nearest storms drain and usually during the next rain or during snow melt, and then those storm drains don't lead to WLSSD, they lead directly to the nearest stream." Crouse said.

Small fish and aquatic insects are prone to these toxic butts and can perish from the leeched toxins in the water. Smoking is a personal choice, but there is no reason why the dirty habit should dirty up our environment.

Crouse told me, "I think the people who are smoking cigarettes need to start thinking about those butts as toxic litter, they don't degrade, those filters aren't made of cotton, their made of a plastic material that stays in the environment for close to 12 years."

One person smoking a pack and a half a day will consume more than 10–thousand cigarettes in a year, which equates to 3.75 pounds of discarded filters. Besides wildfires caused by tossed butts, wildlife can also be affected and die. Butts have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, and other critters and can have fatal consequences for them.

Meteorologist Adam Lorch