Jared Bennett: No ifs, ands or butts about it
Steamboat Springs’ restaurant and business owners encourage their cigarette-smoking customers and employees to properly dispose of their cigarette butts by providing ash receptacles in order to mitigate waste and litter on their property. On Lincoln Ave there are 24 such receptacles in the downtown area alone.
Cigarette waste from these receptacles will eventually be trucked to landfills, leaching into the ground the toxic chemicals. According to the Truth Initiative, cigarettes contain nearly 7,000 chemicals including: arsenic, typically used to kill rats; and formaldehyde, often used to preserve dead animals and humans alike. Here’s the good news, our restaurants and businesses can take the next step in social and environmental responsibility by participating in a cigarette waste-recycling program.
Often times these cigarette butts miss the receptacles altogether and end up in waterways and on riverbanks. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, it is estimated that 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts wind up as litter worldwide per year. After all, it is not uncommon to see them on the sidewalks of Lincoln Avenue, and next to trashcans by the bus stops.
Of great concern is just how persistent the toxic chemicals from used cigarette filters can be. Some of these chemicals end up in our soil and water and can stay for a very long time. It has been found by the nonprofit Cigarette Butt Pollution Project that just one cigarette butt soaked in a liter of water for 96 hours leaches out enough toxins to kill half of the fresh or salt water fish exposed to them.
On top of this, small animals, fish and birds will eat cigarette butts; tricking their bodies into thinking they have gotten enough food. The lack of nutrients in cigarette butts and their non-biodegradability can cause the animals that consume them to die from starvation or poisoning, further degrading the health and diversity of wildlife and habitats essential to the identity of the Yampa Valley.
Here is the solution. TerraCycle, a waste recycling company, offers a free cigarette waste recycling program that is easy to implement and will take cigarette butts, residual tobacco and paper to be recycled into new plastic products.
Signing up for the Cigarette Waste Recycling Program is free and only takes only a few minutes at terracycle.com. After signing up, simply collect and package the cigarette butts, print out a shipping label (provided by TerraCycle for up to 10lbs) and drop off your pre-paid box of butts at the local UPS.
This can be great positive marketing for businesses and restaurants, and help establish a new recycling standard for the city of Steamboat as well. Many cities have already implemented this program, such as Pueblo, Colorado, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Portland, Maine.
To our dearest restaurant and business owners of Steamboat Springs, from all of us who enjoy the clean waters and the beautiful natural environment of our Yampa Valley, doing nothing about cigarette waste is easy. But with TerraCycle it is just as easy to responsibly and sustainably manage the cigarette waste generated from your business.
Cigarette waste is toxic to our valley, no ifs ands or butts about it. Please don’t take the back seat on this issue. It’s truly easy to tackle, and we wouldn’t be the first to do it. Take part in making a change in our community.
Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs student
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