Time to kick the butts

A few facts on cigarette butt pollution, which I would like to share with others in our community


Thirty billion cigarette butts are discarded in Canada every year.

CBC Radio’s program “What a Waste” spurred me to research a few facts on cigarette butt pollution, which I would like to share with others in our community.

Ninety-nine per cent of cigarettes have cellulose acetate filters which are not biodegradable. They are toxic, and while they will eventually break into small pieces, the toxic material never disappears. Research at San Diego State University has shown that the chemicals from just one filtered cigarette butt have the ability to kill half the fish living in a 1-litre container of water.

The toxic chemicals in cigarette butts leach into the soil, destroying micro-organisms, or else they are carried into drains, and ultimately into our waterways where they are hazardous to both fresh water and salt water fish. At present it is estimated that only 10 per cent of cigarette butts end up in the landfill, which is the most desirable option. The volume of random outside disposal has naturally increased with the prevalence of indoor smoking bans. Growing concern over cigarette butt litter has prompted a number of American states and municipalities to undertake a variety of policy initiatives, even to the extent of a move towards banning filtered cigarettes.

Unfortunately cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, as any Adopt-A-Road volunteers in Castlegar can surely confirm. We would not wish to prohibit the individual’s right to smoke, but simply ask for consideration on the issue of butt disposal. Cigarette butts are not litter. They are toxic waste.

Non-smokers should not sit back at this point! Please help by ensuring that at your workplace there are ash cans provided for those who smoke. Smokers, please do everything you can to dispose of butts, and other tobacco product litter responsibly. Pocket receptacles for cigarette butts are readily available, and are easily improvised too.

Castlegar has improved so much in its general appearance and the cleanliness of its streets, parks and beaches. Can “kicking cigarette butts” be the next step?

Elizabeth Fleet,