Posts with term CA Cigarette Recycling X

"Butt Blitz" collecting discarded cigarettes for recycling

Belleville's John Lowry opens a bag containing more than 25,000 cigarette butts he has gathered this month. The volunteer pickup is part of a national campaign to collect and recycle them. Lowry started the week as the third-ranked collector nationally. PHOTO BY LUKE HENDRY
These Belleville volunteers want a cleaner, greener landscape – with no butts about it.
Five city residents are removing cigarette butts from public spaces during the annual Butt Blitz, an annual campaign by the non-profit group A Greener Future. The campaign challenges Canadians to collect butts to be recycled. It began in 2015, with organizers reporting butts account for one in five pieces of litter collected during the organization’s cleanups. “Our campaign is not about getting people to quit smoking. That’s a personal choice,” executive director Rochelle Byrne said in a telephone interview. “We don’t want to offend smokers, either … or make them feel bad or guilty. “Most smokers have no idea that cigarette butts can be recycled. They don’t belong on the ground.” Byrne said part of the campaign’s goal is to let people know discarded filters can be reused in the construction of “plastic wood,” a material used to make park benches or shipping pallets, for example. Butts contain filters made with cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. They also contain heavy metals and harmful chemicals, said Byrne. “All of those toxins can leach out into the water and poison wildlife.” There are an estimated 12,000 microfibres per filter, she added, and microplastics are a growing source of pollution in water and soil. Almost 12 per cent of adult Ontarians in 2020 – almost 1.5 million people – were smokers, Statistics Canada found. Byrne said the average person smoked 15 cigarettes per day. First year locally This is the first year in which a Belleville team has participated in the blitz. The five locals have to date removed nearly 58,000 butts removed from parking lots, sidewalks, and more, accounting for 10 per cent of the national haul. “It’s pretty amazing to see that type of action in one community,” said Byrne. “I’m really proud of our volunteers.” Lori Borthwick leads Belleville’s team. Joining her are John Lowry, Sarah Keoughan, Denice Wilkins, and Mary McBride. Cigarette litter “looks like snow in the back of the parking areas,” said Borthwick, a semi-retired respiratory therapist. “It’s disappointing there’s that disregard for the environment,” added Lowry, a retired Belleville police property evidence clerk. Lowry had collected nearly 26,000 butts to rank third among the 170 individual participants who had submitted their counts. “These things are not biodegradable. They end up in our rivers and lakes,” Lowry said. “It’s just another manifestation of how we, as humans, are impacting the world and we don’t even realize it. “It is absolutely astounding that they’re just everywhere. We’re a throwaway society,” said Lowry. Containers intended for cigarette disposal aren’t always used, said Borthwick. She described her frustration and disgust upon “seeing receptacles, which are empty – and cigarette butts all over the ground.” She said with a laugh she’s a little competitive and is trying to catch up to Lowry’s total. She has almost reached the 25,000 mark, ranking fifth nationally. Borthwick said “about half” of the butts she has collected this month were on the ground next to receptacles at Belleville General Hospital’s “butt hut” – a shelter on the property’s east side. New use for litter Byrne said TerraCycle Canada pays A Greener Future one dollar per pound of butts and program organizers reinvest that money – about $760 this year – into supplies for the cleanup. She noted products are not made entirely from recycled cigarette filters: they’re blended with other materials. “It takes about one million cigarette butts to make a park bench,” she said. Past blitzes collected a total of more than three million butts. This year’s goal is one million in April. Tuesday’s total was more than 577,000. Byrne said her organization is working on a program to increase public access to cigarette recycling. She said changing littering behaviour is “the difficult part.” Lowry and Borthwick, both non-smokers, said they know limited retrieval of the litter is not a solution to the larger problem. “The solution is to change the business model” by using other materials in cigarettes, Borthwick said. The blitz grows annually, she said. Most volunteers are still in Ontario, where the event began, and most – but not all – are non-smokers. Among the 35 teams reporting statistics, London, Ont. residents had gathered the most of any team in Canada: more than 83,000 as of Tuesday. Port Hope residents were in second place with more than 69,000. A Prince Edward County duo was just outside of the top 20. Kathy Marchen and Juerg Roth had gathered almost 8,000. There were 873 cleanups registered across the country. Because cigarettes are technically toxic waste, Byrne said, participation is limited to people ages 19 and older. Visit agreenerfuture.ca for more on the organization and results of the blitz.