No If’s, And’s or BUTTS: Preventing Cigarette Litter Pollution

September is Pollution Prevention Month, and Sustainable Fort Bragg wants you to butt out – your cigarette butt, that is.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the United States and the world.

Of the 176 million pounds of cigarette butts that are discarded in the United States each year, 65 percent of those are littered. Over 4 TRILLION cigarette butts are littered every year worldwide.

Cigarette litter presents numerous public health and environmental concerns.

First, 95 percent of cigarette filters are comprised primarily of cellulose acetate, a plastic that does not biodegrade.

Cigarette butts pose a threat to our municipal water sources because they often enter local waterways through storm drains. In fact, 32 percent of the litter that enters storm drains is tobacco products. Over 125 detrimental chemicals from cigarettes and tobacco can then infiltrate and contaminate the water supply. These chemicals include arsenic, acetone, lead, formaldehyde, benzene, nicotine and cadmium – all of which have been associated with numerous health concerns such as neurological issues, cardiovascular issues and cancer.

Cigarette litter is harmful to wildlife and marine life if animals, birds and fish consume the litter as food.

In addition, cigarette litter creates a fire threat. Improperly extinguished cigarette remnants contribute to devastating property fires and wildfires. The National Fire Protection Agency estimates that cigarettes cause at least 90,000 fires every year. According to the United States Fire Administration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, such fires claim the lives of 1,000 people, and they injure over 3,000 people annually.

Furthermore, cigarette litter carries financial impacts. Cigarette butts account for a significant portion of the litter that costs $11.5 billion to remove each year in the United States. Fort Bragg must pay over $1 million annually to remove litter from roadways and waterways on post. The presence of litter decreases property values by an average of 7 percent and can decrease the appeal of natural areas where it is present, thus decreasing revenues garnered by tourism. Fires caused by cigarettes lead to millions of dollars in property damage, too.

HOW CAN YOU BECOME AN ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE SMOKER?

If you choose to smoke, choose to be an environmentally responsible smoker and commit to pollution prevention.

Always ensure that your cigarette is fully extinguished before you discard it.

Do not discard cigarette ashes or remnants on the ground, in a storm drain or in a waterway. Do not flush cigarette remnants.

Use an ash receptacle, if one is available, to deposit your ashes and cigarette remnants. If an ash receptacle is not available, fully extinguish your cigarette and place the remnants in another proper waste receptacle. Request the placement of ash receptacles at your office in designated smoking areas, and consider using an ash receptacle at your home.

Or, use a pocket ashtray to collect ashes and cigarette remnants until you can properly dispose of them. Many pocket ashtrays are available for purchase, or you can create your own pocket ashtray by using reclaimed materials such as film canisters or mint tins.

If we all work together, we can ensure a clean and healthy Fort Bragg for the Soldiers of today as well as the Soldiers of tomorrow – the right way … the green way … all the way!

For more information, visit Keep America Beautiful’s Guide to Cigarette Litter  Prevention.

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