This October 17, 2003 file photo shows cigarette butts and other debris on the cliffs above Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach, California. Photo: Denis Poroy/AP
Cigarettes are America’s most littered item. It’s causing a crisis in America’s big cities. The ashtrays that were once outside public buildings and in the confined spaces of schools and airports are no longer to be found. Even after being tossed (or discarded), cigarette butts take years to naturally decompose.
Cigarette waste has a detrimental impact on the environment and wildlife, according to TerraCycle, a Trenton-based private recycling company with operations in 21 countries. Chemicals such as arsenic and lead in tobacco litter diffuse into marine and terrestrial environments.
In honor of America’s Recycle Day on November 15th, TerraCycle has proposed a free tobacco waste recycling program. By signing up online, you can mail your tobacco waste to TerraCycle for recycling and purchase bins for your community areas and businesses. An individual can participate in the program by signing up online, sealing tobacco waste in a plastic bag, and mailing the bag in his TerraCycle free shipping labeled box.
Paper and cigarette butts are collected and sorted and recycled into plastic that can be used to make a variety of products, including shipping pallets, ashtrays and park benches.
Various non-profit organizations and local governments are involved in this project. Keep-America-Beautiful (KAB) and other organizations are working together to contribute to TerraCycle projects and encourage people to conduct tobacco waste assessments. As a bonus, for every pound of tobacco waste collected, $1,000 will be donated to Keep America Beautiful’s tobacco waste prevention program.
TerraCycle has collected hundreds of millions of cigarettes that cannot otherwise be recycled. Keep America Beautiful Chapters widely participating in the program include:
- Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful – As part of implementing a statewide trash plan to address micro-trash, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful has partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to place 14 Welcome Centers across the state at their entrances. We have set up a recycling bin for cigarettes. This, in addition to working with 41 Pennsylvania state parks, will result in a combined 65% reduction in tobacco waste.
- Keep New Hanover Beautiful – Keep New Hanover Beautiful has launched a comprehensive initiative to recycle cigarette butts, working with businesses, local governments and others. Since 2017, we have recycled over 1 million cigarette filters using recycling services provided by TerraCycle.
- Keep Puako Beautiful – In 2021, Keep Puako Beautiful collected over 7,000 cigarette butts from beautiful Puako Beach in Hawaii. With personal passion and dedication, the organization has teamed up with Keep America Beautiful and TerraCycle to divert this waste from both landfills and natural habitats.