Additional Litter Facts
Ensuring a Cleaner, Safer Community
When it comes to cigarette butt litter, we all pay. Residents and businesses pick up the tab. Cigarette butt litter has to be cleaned up. This requires additional sidewalk and street sweeping, greenway and park maintenance, storm drain cleaning, and increased maintenance of stormwater filters. Business owners bear the expense of cigarette butt litter cleanup around entrances, exits, sidewalks, and parking lots. Community quality of life suffers. Not paying attention to quality-of-life issues can result in a decline in a city's foot traffic, tourism, business development, and housing. Focusing on small improvements like reducing cigarette butt litter creates safer and more economically vibrant communities.
Recreation areas become less attractive. Cigarette butt litter on beaches, waterfronts, ballfields, parks, picnic areas, and hiking trails decreases the appeal of these natural escapes. It also creates fire hazards, impacts local wildlife, and eventually contributes to lost tourism and revenue.
Learn more about why cigarette litter matters. A cigarette butt dropped to the ground seems insignificant, but follow that butt as it's carried off by rain into storm drains and eventually to streams and rivers. It now adds up to a big impact on the places we live:
- Cigarette butt litter creates blight. It accumulates in gutters, and outside doorways and bus shelters. It's the number one most littered item anywhere. Increasing amounts of litter in a business district, along riverfronts, or recreation areas create a sense that no one cares, leading to more community disorder and crime.¹
- Cigarette butts don't disappear. About 95% of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic which does not quickly degrade and can persist in the environment.²
- Filters are harmful to waterways and wildlife. About 18% of litter, traveling primarily through stormwater systems, ends up in local streams, rivers, and waterways. Nearly 80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources. Cigarette butt litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food.³
- Only 10% of cigarette butts are properly deposited in ash receptacles and are the least likely item to be placed in a receptacle.¹
- ¹ "Can the Can," The Economist
- ² Clean Virginia Waterways
- ³ Faris, J. and Hart, K. "Seas of Debris: A Summary of the Third International Conference on Marine Debris," N.C. Sea Grant College Program and NOAA, 1994.