Stop Cigarette Butts from Littering Downtown

We are students studying sustainability for an Environmental Case Studies class, and it is our group project and mission to focus on reducing the amount of cigarette litter in downtown Athens. Through our research, we can report that cigarette butt litter on Clayton and Broad streets, as well as on College Avenue, persists because of the distance to cigarette receptacles, the young population’s attitudes and behaviors and the amount of litter that already exists, which encourages more littering in the area. With your help, we can reduce this solvable problem for everyone who loves Athens and wants to keep it in the best condition this town can be in.

Thanks to Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, Athens now has cigarette receptacles, which cost the city around $200 apiece. People are using them. According to Stacy Smith of Keep Athens Beautiful, “The difference in the pre-receptacle and post receptacle cigarette butt numbers showed a drop of over 80 percent when we surveyed between June 2012 and June 2013.”

The problem is not everyone uses them. People carelessly drop cigarettes all over town from broad daylight to the wee hours in the morning. If you love Athens as much as we do, properly dispose of your cigarette butt and encourage your friends, fellow residents and visitors to do the same.

So what is wrong with this small, insignificant little butt? In studying sustainability, we found some unsettling information about these butts. Cigarette butts encompass an estimated 25–50 percent of all amassed litter items from roads and streets, making them a major concern for the quality of city and urban life.  Contrary to popular belief, cigarette butts are not biodegradable. When mixed with water, cigarette butts produce a toxic sludge. Butts get into our streams and waterways, and pollute our oceans.

So you’re not a smoker? Does it ever bother you when you see someone just take that butt and throw it out on the sidewalk or street, knowing good and well it is just going to remain there? How can you help? If you see some butts on the ground and you love this town, like we do, go ahead, do not be afraid, scoop them up. You will not die from doing this.

If you are a smoker, just do this town a favor and keep it clean and beautiful. Use the receptacles, toss them in the trash, be a responsible Athenian.

Cigarette butts contain all the carcinogenic chemicals, pesticides and nicotine that make tobacco use the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, yet they are commonly, unconsciously and inexcusably dumped by the trillions—5.6 trillion and counting—into the global environment each year.

Please do not think pedestrians are the only ones littering. If you are driving your car and throw out your cigarette, that is litter, too. Try carrying a small cup or ashtray in your car to limit the amount of cigarettes you are throwing out of your automobile.

Our campaign is called “No Litter Athens” encompassing all litter that Athenians carelessly drop around Athens, but primarily focusing on cigarette butts. Our Twitter page is brand new and highlights eco-friendly Internet conversations, facts about litter and updates about our progress. Check us out at @NoLitterAthens.

Join us for our first litter pickup starting at the Arch at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20.