With over 1.2 million cigarette butts collected so far, Surfrider Pacific Rim’s Hold On To Your Butts campaign is dragging pollution down and making local beach clean hauls lighter.
The campaign was lit in 2017 and now has about 40 businesses between Tofino and Ucluelet participating and 100 canisters installed throughout Tofino and Ucluelet.
Surfrider volunteers collect butts from those canisters about every two months, sending them off to Terracycle to be recycled into plastic plywood.
The pick-up service costs $60 a year and participating businesses and residents can also drop their canisters off at Ozzard Environmental themselves to be sent off. Anyone interested in participating can order a canister through Surfrider or Terracycle.
“It’s really just to promote the whole education piece around cigarette butts,” Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter coordinator Laurie Hannah told the Westerly News.
“We often find cigarette butts on the beach because everyone thinks sand is like a big ashtray, but it’s not. They eventually migrate into the ocean and are really toxic…They’re plastic and they don’t break down in the environment.”
While the campaign has made a dent, cigarette butts continue to top collected items on beach cleanups.
“We have definitely been seeing a reduction in the numbers of cigarette butts than we have historically,” she said. She added roughly 4.9 trillion cigarette butts are discarded annually and Surfrider hopes to change attitudes around flicking a butt onto the ground.
“There’s all this information around not littering, but cigarette butts aren’t always thought about as litter. So, we’re really trying to change the mindset around that,” she said. “It’s such a changeable behaviour. It’s an individual behaviour that we can change super easily. It’s just really a matter of holding onto your butt and recycling them…We want the whole west coast to be cigarette butt free, we’d like to remove them completely from the marine environment.”
She added Surfrider is also calling for a federal ban on cellulose acetate cigarette butt filters, noting filters were made out of biodegradable materials until the 1950’s.
“Ultimately, one of our goals is to have the tobacco companies responsible for their waste. We’d like it to come back to them and get them to pay for some of the cleanup and ultimately ban this form of filter. The filters do not need to be made with cellulose acetate,” she said.