City Launches Campaign to Reduce Cigarette Litter

April 30, 2010  

The City of Jacksonville's Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission is launching its 2010 campaign to help reduce cigarette butt litter with a cigarette butt litter scan and installation of new ash receptacles. .

The first scan of 2010 will be conducted on Tuesday, May 4 around the Edward Ball Building, 214 N. Hogan St., as well as the 2700 block of St. Johns Avenue and the 2500 block of Riverside Avenue, which have heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Following the scan, ash receptacles will be installed at the above locations. A second scan will take place on Tuesday, June 29 after the installation of ash receptacles to determine if there has been a decrease in the amount of related litter.

In 2007, “Keep Your Butts to Yourself!” was the first city-sponsored campaign to encourage Jacksonville smokers to properly dispose of their cigarette butts. The campaign included public service announcements, print ads and billboard messages. In addition, “pocket ashtrays” (small, portable ashtrays that fit into a pocket, briefcase or purse) were distributed to smokers through partnerships with community organizations.

The second phase of the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program went into effect in June 2008. Keep America Beautiful offered their affiliates, including the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission, a donation to purchase cigarette ash receptacles for installation in public areas. One of the requirements of the donation was to conduct cigarette litter scans.

“We chose the sites based on location and thoroughfare of pedestrians. We assembled teams to pick up and count each cigarette butt,” said Vivian Harrell, a member of the Clean It Up, Green It Up staff.

Teams consisted of private citizens, students, Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission members, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Downtown Vision and other non-profit organizations.

Based on the results of the 2008 scans, the city's Public Works Department installed the cigarette ash receptacles in Hemming Plaza, City Hall and Jessie B. Smith Memorial Plaza.

Discarded cigarette butts are one the biggest trash problems around the world. In fact, at the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup, sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, volunteers collected 1,362,741 cigarette butts in the United States alone. In all, there were 11.4 million items—or 6.8 million pounds of debris – the weight of 18 blue whales— collected from 104 countries by volunteers during the one-day event.

Cigarette filters or butts are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. Research shows that depending on climatic factors, cigarette butts can take decades to disintegrate. Improperly discarded cigarette filters often accumulate in the environment for long periods of time. Not only are they unsightly, but they are acutely toxic and life threatening to wildlife.