Smokers Butts are Littering Beaches

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

Is a beach an ashtray? It may be surprising, but cigarette butts were the most common item found on the world's beaches at the 2009 International Coastal Cleanup. And there's a good chance they all didn't get there by careless sunbathers.

"When a cigarette butt is discarded at a marina, there is a fair chance it will find its way into the water," said Susan Shingledecker, the BoatU.S. Foundation's director of environmental programs.

The Foundation is looking for marina partners for a cigarette litter prevention program with Keep America Beautiful, a nationwide non-profit organization that strives for practical approaches to protecting the environment.

The challenge with cigarette litter, according to Shingledecker, is that, "Many people assume butts are made from paper that will break down over time, and don't think of them as litter. However, cigarette filters are plastic and when tossed overboard or washed into storm drains, creeks and waterways they can last for decades resulting in an unsightly mess and harming fish and other wildlife."

Can boaters and marina staff really make a difference?

Shingledecker points to last year's program in which the Foundation identified over 30 marinas around the country that were willing to tackle their cigarette litter problems. Keep America Beautiful provided each marina with a cash grant to purchase cigarette ash receptacles and a supply of portable ashtrays for use on boats. Marinas were asked to install the receptacles, distribute the portable ashtrays, and educate their customers about the importance of proper disposal.

Participating marinas saw an average 70 percent reduction in the amount of cigarette litter as a result of the program, which ultimately means less will end up on a beach - or in our waterways.

"We saw a difference in the number of cigarette butts around the marina," said one marina manager. "Placing more ash receptacles around the property gave smokers no excuse to toss them on the ground. The program was certainly worth our time," he added.

Marinas wishing to repeat this success and join the program for 2010 need to complete a short questionnaire to be considered. This is located at http://www.boatus.com/foundation/LitterSurvey . A total of 50 marinas are needed, and if selected, will receive funds to cover the cost of ash receptacles and a supply of portable ashtrays. The deadline for applications is April 16th.