If you have spent any time on the Athens Courthouse Square during the last few weeks, then you probably saw KALB's giant butts on display.
Now I know some of us may resemble that remark, but I am referring to giant cigarette butts! These giant butts were created and placed next to each of the new metal bell ash receptacles purchased by KALB with grant money awarded through the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program and a donation from T.R.A.I.L. (Together Renewing and Improving Limestone).
We are all so busy that we may not notice the amount of cigarette litter that exists. That is exactly why this cigarette litter awareness program was developed. KALB hopes these giant cigarette butts will call attention to the location of the new ash receptacles and bring awareness to the dangers this type of litter causes. Each of the cigarette butts contains an individual fact about cigarette litter.
Cigarette litter is very small and often overlooked or equated with being harmless. That couldn't be further from the truth. Cigarette filters are made from tiny strands of plastic so small some people think they are made from cotton. They will remain in the environment a very long time. The filters are designed to trap the chemicals and poisons in burning tobacco. When the filters are littered, they will find their way into ditches and waterways where the poisons wash out of them and into the ecosystem.
The amount of poisons in these butts may seem miniscule; however, when you consider that TRILLIONS are tossed, flicked, and squished annually, that adds up to a LOT of poisons. According to CigaretteLitter.org, smoking materials are the most littered item on earth and add up to millions of pounds per year.
We recognize that cigarette litter is an environmental issue, not a smoking issue -- just the same as soda manufacturers having no control over the consumer's decision to litter drink containers. We respect the right of a person to smoke. Our goal is to provide enough information so that smokers can make educated choices about discarding their waste once the cigarette has been smoked.
Here is a list of just a few of the chemicals found in cigarette filters:
• Stearic Acid
These chemicals and more find their way into our aquatic ecosystems and endanger the living things that make the water their home. They are also very toxic to wildlife that mistake them for food, as well as toddlers who often put things in their mouths.
For those of you that prefer "just the facts", here are some facts and statistics you can share with your friends and relatives that smoke who may need a reminder. Peer pressure works on grownups, too!
• Smoking in the United States has decreased by 28% over that last 10 years, but remains the most littered item.
• Dropping, flicking, and stuffing filters in planters is littering and is against the law. The act warrants a citation.
• Littered cigarette butts cause fires. Did you ever wonder how the grass fire you saw on the side of the road got started?
• 63% of cigarette butt littering is attributable to a lack of awareness about the environmental impact and insufficient ash receptacles. KALB is working to solve both problems through the purchase of ash receptacles and our awareness program.
• Residents and businesses "pick up" the tab. Cigarette litter creates a need for more street and sidewalk sweeping, greenway and park cleaning, and storm drain cleaning.
• Auto manufacturers no longer put ashtrays in vehicles, which causes a dilemma.
Contact or visit the KALB office and we will provide smokers with portable ash receptacles that fit in a drink holder. We also have pocket ashtrays that will safely hold a cigarette butt until an ash receptacle is found.
Please share this information as often as you can because knowledge is key to changing behaviors. Watch for our giant butts to show up again. Cigarette butts, that is!
By: Lynne Hart