A group of Victoria environmentalists want the public to get their hands on as many butts as possible – cigarette butts that is.
LoveWhereYouLive BC – an organization running social responsibility and environmental campaigns around Victoria – has a vision of litter-free parks and public spaces. Recently they decided the issue at the top of the agenda is eliminating cigarette waste.
“The number one form of litter that we found was cigarette butts,” said event organizer Michael Wegner. “We’re creating an event where people can bring the butts directly to us, we’ll package and ship them [to recycling] and just get the word out that it is time for change.”
The ‘Jam One in the Can’ cash for trash campaign offers five cents per butt up to $50 per person, and has up to $1,000 to give butt-collectors, as well as an additional $500 bonus for the person who collects the highest number.
With money donated from Castle Building Centres, Wegner is hoping the cash incentive will raise the profile of the issue. He said cigarette butts have cellulose filters that break down into microplastics in a matter of years. Those plastics frequently end up in lawns or going down storm drains – eventually ending up in the ocean, earth and air.
“It’s an awareness campaign primarily to let people know that now is the time to stop throwing them on the ground. That it is a problem, but we also have a solution in place.”
That solution? Recycling. Cigarette butts can be recycled for a small fee, just like cans and bottles.
Eco-friendly recycling company TerraCycle has a cigarette waste program that uses a composting process for the paper and tobacco, and has filters re-manufactured into shipping pellets or other products, keeping them out of landfills.
And while collecting and recycling butts will help, Wegner said the ultimate goal is to get at the root of the issue.
“We have to get the smokers to stop dropping them in the first place. To become responsible for their own personal waste,” he said. “It is time for a change in social behaviours relating to smoking. The perfect solution is that people would quit smoking but that’s not realistically achievable in the short-term. But getting them off of the ground and into a responsible waste stream … will help.
“Then we need to put pressure on our political leaders to either end the single-use cigarette filter or to set up a deposit return system,” he added. “The answers are all there, but just like any community, we have to pull it together.”
Anyone can participate in the ‘Jam One in the Can’ program. Cigarette butts can be brought to the Party Crashers parking lot at 2642 Quadra Street on Aug. 3 between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hot dogs and beverages will be available as long as supplies last.
For those who decide to collect butts, Wegner recommends wearing gloves or using tongs to pick up the waste.