Each year, Kaua‘i volunteers pick up a shocking amount of tobacco butts from beaches, parks, roadsides, and other public locations. Nationally, cigarettes-use rates are at an all-time low, yet cigarette butts continue to be the most commonly littered item. All in all, cigarette butts create an estimated 1.69 billion pounds of toxic litter each year in the US.
Sadly, many people don’t think cigarette butts are litter, let alone toxic litter. Most smokers are responsible and properly dispose of their cigarette butts. However, some do not and even purposely dispose of their butts on the ground because they believe cigarette butts are biodegradable and the materials will decompose naturally in the environment. They are not and they will not.
The filter in cigarette butts are made from cellulose acetate, a form of non-biodegradable plastic. Making matters worse, this plastic filter absorbs the toxic poisons found in the tobacco portion of the cigarette. Depending on environmental conditions, a cigarette filter can take 18 months to 10 years to break down, while leaching toxins into the ground and waterways.
On Kaua‘i, roughly 7,700 residents are current smokers. If each of those people smoked one pack a day every day for one year, that could generate 21,049 pounds of cigarette butt waste each year on Kauai*. And that doesn’t even include visitors who may also smoke and dispose of their butt waste on island throughout their stay. Some of that rubbish is properly disposed of while some ends up in our parks, beaches, parking lots, roadways and other areas.
Tobacco-Free Kaua‘i is working to bring cigarette butt litter to the forefront and provide education regarding properly disposing cigarette butts. We’re also working to keep areas such as beaches, parks and playgrounds free from tobacco-use, which will also help to keep toxic waste away from places that our keiki and families play.
The #NotAnAshtray #Kauai campaign is meant to raise awareness of areas where our residents and visitors see tobacco waste. So, when you see a place that is #NotAnAshtry, take a pic, hashtag it, and post it to various social media sites to remind everyone that #Kauai is our island, our home, and not an ashtray!
*The average weight of a pack of 20 cigarette filters is .12 ounces (this figure does not include the weight of tobacco that could be attached to the filter, or the packaging, matches, disposable lighters, and other “collateral” waste that is generated by smoking). The estimate of smokers on Kauai and the weight of cigarette filter waste generated is only an estimate generated from the percentage of Kauai adults reported to be smokers on the 2015 BRFSS