Emerald Mountain School green team: Cigarette debris increasing
Four-hundred and eighty-seven. That’s how many cigarette butts the Emerald Mountain School green team found on Oct. 21 during our fall Oak Street clean-up.
As part of the Adopt‑a‑Street program, our school’s green team cleans up Oak Street each fall and spring. Over the years, we have noticed that there is an overwhelming amount of cigarette debris.
As we cleaned this fall, we set aside a container to solely collect cigarette waste so we could see for ourselves how large this problem really is. We were disappointed but not surprised by the number of cigarette filters and butts that we collected.
In the weeks leading up to this clean-up, we researched cigarette litter statistics as well as effective prevention programs. We wanted to share what we learned with the local community.
• Cigarette butts are the number one debris item found in oceans worldwide. Since Oak Street is only yards away from the Yampa River, it is inevitable that our local cigarette litter is making its way into river, and eventually ocean, pollution.
• Smokers are more likely to litter if the environment contains any type of litter, not just cigarette butts. More littered environments encourage more littering.
• At the time of improper disposal, litterers were an average of 31 feet away from a proper ash receptacle. Kids know to hold onto their trash until they can get to a trash or recycling bin, but smokers don’t follow this same practice with their cigarettes.
While we would love to see people stop smoking completely, we realize that we need to think about effective ways to address cigarette littering now. We would like to suggest a few ways to increase the availability of ash receptacles and portable ashtrays as well as to educate the public.
• Cigarette vendors could offer incentives for people to purchase pocket ashtrays.
• Every park and public meeting area should have visible and accessible cigarette disposal containers.
• More organizations should participate in Adopt‑a‑Street programs to clean up the litter before it causes further pollution problems.
• Local stores could host clean up days and offer discounts to participants.
• Starting at the elementary school level, there could be more anti‑smoking education programs in area schools.
• Local health and environmental professionals can visit area schools to teach kids about the impact of cigarette smoking and cigarette litter.
Thank you for considering our ideas.
Emerald Mountain School green team
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