Project Report- Watch Your Butts

Watch your butts!

Cigarette butts contain all the carcinogenic chemicals, pesticides and nicotine that make tobacco use the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, yet trillions are dumped into the environment each year. Countless American smokers believe cigarette butts are an exception to the no littering rule because for some reason they think that cigarette butts are biodegradable.

Most cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate which is a form of plastic. The white fibers in the cigarette filters which look like cotton is actually a plastic that does not degrade. Dozens of cities across the nation are fed up with this waste problem. Cities have passed bans on smoking on beaches and parks. In San Francisco, California the city applies a $2 a pack tax to cover the money that the city spends annually removing the cigarette litter and it will generate $1.4 billion a year for health care, smoking prevention programs and research.

Nationally cigarette butts account for 25% of litter on the streets. I’ve been noticing that the number one littered item on campus appears to be cigarette butts. I predominantly find them more on the residential side compared to the academic side of campus. It’s very common to find them right outside entrances and exits of the dorms and especially at the designated smoking areas. The purpose of my project is to help keep the campus clean of this toxic waste. My plan was to put Plastic Smoker’s Receptacle waste cans at almost every entrance of Stuyvesant Hall and one at the main entrance of Smith Hall. The brand that produces these waste cans is called ULINE and the cans themselves cost $48 but discounts may be applicacble when purchased in bulk. These are the same cigarette cans the school has on the academic side of campus. There are some of these cigarette butt cans already on the residential side of campus, but they are either not conveniently placed or broken. So I need to find is who is in charge of maintaining the cigarette butt trash cans and how I can get funding for the Plastic Smokers Receptacle.


Bennett, Sophia. “How to Recycle Cigarette Ashes and Waste.” RecycleNation. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Whole cities have embarked on trying to make their streets cleaner applying these waste containers throughout the entire city. This could be a second phase to my project for someone to do in the future.

“Butt Really? The Environmental Impact of Cigarettes | Tobacco Control.” Butt Really? The Environmental Impact of Cigarettes | Tobacco Control. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

This website gave a lot of information about how serious cigarette butt waste is to the environment. Going into detail about the harmful effects of leachates.

“Cigarette Litter –Biodegradable?” Cigarette Litter –Biodegradable? N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Cigarettes butts are not biodegradable, they contain plastic and persistent in the environment for a very long time.

“Cigarette Waste Recycling Program.” TerraCycle. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

TerraCycle is a recycling program which specializes in hard to recycle waste. They have free programs where you collect the waste and download free shipping labels and ship the waste to them, schools and non profits can even earn rewards. They turn the waste into useful products.

Kaufman, Leslie. “Cigarette Butts: Tiny Trash That Piles Up.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 May 2009. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Leslie talks about the burden cities are left with from the result of smokers throwing their cigarette butts anywhere but the garbage.

Melody Gutierrez and Sam Whiting, San Francisco Chronicle. “Prop. 56: Voters Approve Cigarette Tax.” SFGate. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

San Francisco applies a $2 a pack tax to help raise money for research, healthcare and smoking prevention programs.

Novotny, Thomas E., and Elli Slaughter. “Tobacco Product Waste: An Environmental Approach to Reduce Tobacco Consumption.” Current Environmental Health Reports. Springer International Publishing, 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Aquatic ecosystems are affected by the toxic water which is released from cigarette buds soaked in water. If a better effort was made to make sure cigarette buds were disposed of properly then there would be less toxic water entering the aquatic systems.

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