Cigarette butts are the most littered item in America and make up 38% of all trash on U.S. roadways, according to Keep America Beautiful. Annually, worldwide cigarette butt litter amounts to 1.69 billion pounds.
TerraCycle Inc., a company devoted to creating recycling systems for hard-to-recycle waste, has teamed up with Sante Fe Natural Tobacco Co. to create an alternative to leaving cigarette butts on roadways or putting them into landfills. The tobacco company will sponsor TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Brigade, which will allow individuals and groups to collect cigarette waste, print a prepaid shipping label and then mail the cigarettes to TerraCycle, where they will be turned into new products such as shipping pallets, railroad ties, plastic lumber and ash trays.
TerraCycle’s mission is to solve waste issues and eliminate the idea of waste, and cigarettes have been on their list of items to tackle for a long time. They believe that to solve waste problems, less desirable forms of waste such as cigarettes need to be dealt with, too.
“We started out doing a lot of consumer packaging and we really wanted to take on some more serious issues. There is no more serious of an environmental issue when it comes to litter and waste than cigarette butts,” Albe Zakes, Global VP of Media Relations for TerraCycle, told Earth911.
The program is aimed to target cigarette waste in two ways. First, it will take aim at cigarette waste that has already been littered by working with anti-litter groups and beach clean-up efforts, since those people are already collecting trash and disposing of it in landfills. Second, the program will work with larger facilities like shopping malls, office parks, bars and other places where cigarettes are consumed in large numbers and responsibly discarded, Zakes explained.
“Because of how many cigarettes are consumed and because of the rate of consumption, we do expect this to be a very, very impactful and patroned program,” Zakes said. “The goal is to collect hundreds of millions of butts, if not more. We want to make a dent. Unless you’re collecting hundreds of millions of butts, you’re not making a dent.”
Those age 21 or older who are interested in getting involved can visit TerraCycle’s website to sign up for the brigade.