Twenty Pounds of Cigarette Butts

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This past Saturday, thirteen members of the Seattle area part of the PNW Litter Project made it possible to keep 20 pounds of cigarette butts out of landfills, waterways and stomachs of birds and other forms of wildlife.

Cigarette butts are way more toxic than you might think. They are NOT made of cotton, they are made of cellulose acetate tow and they can take decades to degrade. Investigators in a San Diego State University study once discovered that if you put fathead minnows and top smelt in a liter of water that also contains a single cigarette butt, half of the fish will die.

We have been picking up cigarette butts for the last three years. This particular work party was held in the International District of Seattle and was in honor of Kick Butts Day, an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. The event is organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and sponsored by the United Health Foundation.

The weather forecast for Saturday was dismal, one inch of rain was predicted. Nature graced us however. While it was cold and windy and everything was wet due to the rain that had fallen the previous night, there was no rainfall during the 1 ½ to 2 hours we worked.

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I like to believe that Mother Nature was pleased with us because after we finished, the wind died down and it was sunny for a good part of the day!

Tomorrow I will be packing up the 20 pounds of cigarette butts and mailing them to TerraCycle where they will be turned into plastic pallets!

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18 thoughts on “Twenty Pounds of Cigarette Butts

    1. Absolutely. We could have worked all day and not gotten them all. Since ashtrays are no longer available to smokers I suspect most of the butts end up on the sidewalks or bushes.

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      1. I see them in front of our building too and in the back in the bushes where I cut across as a short cut. I thought I heard there were some cities like San Fran that would fine you if you did that. I wonder if that has started anywhere in the world.

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  1. 20 pounds of cigarette butts is a quite extraordinary and shocking amount to collect in just 1 ½ to 2 hours Karuna – well done to all of you! And by the way, I had no idea that they were so toxic; your information as regards a single butt in a litre of water and the power it has to kill fish is a very graphic example.

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    1. Another important statistic is: The most common form of litter in the world are cigarette butts. It is estimated that 4.5 trillion of the butts are tossed yearly.

      In the past we used to count them. There was one time, probably three years ago, where we collected 15,000 butts in that area of Seattle. I believe it was a two hour work party.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel so moved every time i read about this ‘Picking up butts’ seva that you all do. There is something about how a little cigarette butt on the ground can seem so innocuous, it looks so small … and yet the damage it causes is enormous! Seeing the images of the butts collecting in the grills makes the repercussions of randomly discarding them so visible and vivid. A moment of gratitude for no longer smoking (it’s been over 30 years!) and that i no longer contribute to damaging the environment in this way. I rarely see butts these days. I am setting an intention that when i do i will find something to pick it up with so i can put it in the trash. I am guessing better there than in a storm drain or where a bird might pick it up.
    Thank you and Jai Ma to all of you 👏

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