Thousands of cigarette butts litter Vancouver shorelines, but the 19th annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, which wrapped up Sunday, has found a novel way to dispose of butts volunteers collected this year.
TerraCycle Canada’s Cigarette Waste Brigade program will recycle butts into plastic pallets, also known as skids, for industrial use.
Jill Dwyer, the cleanup’s program manager, has asked site coordinators to send cigarette waste to TerraCycle Canada, which is based in Toronto.
The organic part of the waste, such as paper and remaining tobacco, is being composted.
“We’re mailing [TerraCycle] our cigarette butts and they’ll be recycling the plastic filter and turning them into other plastic products,” Dwyer explained. “So we’ll see how many site coordinators participate in the program and it’s an interesting idea of something to do other than putting them in a landfill. It’s also a great awareness piece for people. Most people don’t realize that in cigarette butts—the filter is actually plastic. They think that cigarette butts are bio-degradable. That’s why they think it’s OK to just throw them on the ground. Having information out there about this program makes people realize that they are plastic and that they will never biodegrade.”
Butts are on the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s “dirty dozen list” of most-common items volunteers pick up. This year’s tally isn’t finalized yet, but in 2011 cigarettes and cigarette filters topped the dirty dozen list—61,417 were picked up during the Vancouver cleanup. Across B.C., the total was 178,217.
Other commonly found debris includes food wrappers, lids, plastic bags, straws, beverage bottles and cans and pull tabs. Volunteers at this year’s Iona Beach cleanup picked up garbage including tires, large car parts such as part of a muffler, and lots of typical debris including butts and beverage bottles, according to Dwyer.
She said the goal of cleanups is to recycle everything possible and to dispose of everything else properly.
The amount of debris collected annually has increased, but so have participants—105 shoreline cleanups were registered for the event in Vancouver this year—the cleanup ran from Sept. 15 to 23. “We have more people out there removing litter so I think it’s a factor of having more people out there,” she said.
Dwyer added that she’s encouraged by the amount of participants.
“This program is really inspirational to me to see so many people out volunteering their time to pick up litter,” she said, noting even when it’s pouring rain kick-off events have attracted more than 300 volunteers.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a conservation effort between the Vancouver Aquarium and the WWF Canada. It’s part of the International Coastal Cleanup, an international day of action in September where people from countries around the world remove litter from their shores. The Canadian event started in 1994 when a small group of Vancouver Aquarium employees collected data on the shoreline litter they removed from a beach in Stanley Park for the International Coastal Cleanup.