Monday, April 18, 2011

What Is The #1 Single-Use Plastic Item?

If you said cigarette butts, you are correct! Only 15-20% of the US population smokes but the cigarette butt waste seems overwhelming. Since butts are made from cellulose acetate, a type of synthetic plastic, they can be considered a single-use plastic. No one wants to reuse those toxic butts, but our friends at Ripple Life are looking for ways to recycle them.

Data from the Ocean Conservancy show that in 2009, over three million (3,216,991) cigarettes or cigarette filters were removed internationally from beaches and inland waterways as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), including 1,362,741 collected from the U.S. This represents 28% and 35% of total debris items collected worldwide and in the U.S., respectively, making it by far the most prevalent item found.

Surfrider started our Hold On To Your Butts program in 1992 as local surfers were fed up from cigarette waste at the beach. The idea that Gary Sirota and Oscar Gonzales started blossomed into a successful awareness program that helped to spur smoke-free beaches in San Diego, outdoor ashcans in local communities and the super-fun annual Hold On To Your Butt day each year.

But, it's not enough. While the beaches are cleaner, there is increased butt waste on the streets and sidewalks that the additional outdoor ashcans are not catching. What else can be done? Maybe stricter litter enforcement from police or greatly increased producer responsibility programs from the cigarette manufacturers?

Tune in tomorrow (Tuesday April 19th at noon Eastern) for a special webcast in observance of Earth Day 2011 focusing on how public health experts, policy leaders, environmental activists and even the tobacco industry can help prevent and put an end to this type of toxic waste. Point your browser to and join in on the discussion.