Cigarette butts account for approximately one in every five items collected during beach cleanups. Often littered on our sidewalks and streets, they end up in our storm drains, flowing to our streams, rivers, bays, lagoons and ultimately the ocean. An estimated 4.95 trillion cigarette butts are disposed of in our environment annually worldwide. Litter clean-up costs the U.S. over 11 billion annually, cigarette butts represent an estimated 32% of that litter.
Smokers can easily - and happily - dispose of their butts in appropriate ash receptacles instead of tossing them out car windows or on the ground. The problem is that most smokers do not even think that their actions in tossing a butt to the ground is littering - it's just how they have always disposed of the cigarette. Once awareness is raised, most smokers are caring and considerate enough to change their conduct. Raising awareness is the biggest key to resolving this problem.
Cigarette Butt Facts:
- It can take up to 25 years for one cigarette to biodegrade.
- Cigarettes are littered on average 142 times per second.
- Eighty percent of the 4,500,000,000 (!) littered annually worldwide find their way into water systems, causing a deterioration of overall quality.
- The cigarettes littered in one year alone worldwide can go from the moon to the earth almost 300 times
- Littered cigarettes are responsible for destructive fires that have caused vast amounts of property damage and wreaked havoc on many lives.
- Property maintenance costs are greatly reduced by reducing cigarette litter
- Cigarette litter has been the most littered item recovered every year during the International Coastal Cleanup by more than two to one
- They are the number one littered item on US roadways and the number one item found on beaches and in waterways worldwide
- Cigarette butts are composed of cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable plastic, which can take up to 25 years to decompose.
- Cigarette butts made up 38 percent of all roadside litter and representing 28 percent of all debris collected.
How to Make a Difference:
- Install outdoor ash cans (which can result in a 65% reduction in cigarette butt litter)
- Distributing pocket ashtrays to smokers
- Education and community awareness
- Introduce stronger laws/enforcement of cigarette litter laws
- Ensure restaurants/bars provide outdoor receptacles
Links to Helpful Information:
- Ash Receptacles and Portable Ashtrays
- From COA (Clean Ocean Action): Ten Tips for Smokers
- From NAMEPA (North American Marine Environment Protection Association): Keep your butt’s OFF the beach!
- Sign up to download free educational material from NAMEPA here.
From RethinkButts.org: Cigarette butt YouTube video (34 seconds, April 2013)
- From KAB (Keep America Beautiful): Cigarette Litter Prevention Program
- KAB provides Cigarette Litter Prevention and Cigarette Litter Collection Stand grants through their Community Grants program
- Additionally, Boat U.S. Foundation (Boat Owners Association of the U.S.) in partnership with KAB runs a Cigarette Litter Prevention grant program for marinas to supply $500 grants to purchase receptacles, signs and portable ash trays for use on boats.
- Documents (listed from left to right):
- Cigarette Litter in America, Infographic (1 page, 2017)
- Key Findings: Cigarette Butt Litter, Fact Sheet (2 pages, January 2010)
- Smoking Bans and Cigarette Litter at Transition Points, Report (48 pages, Dec 2020)
- Findings from a study of Smoking Bans and Cigarette Litter at Transition Points, Report Summary (3 pages, Dec 2020)
New Jersey Smoke Free Parks & Recreational Areas:
- From ANRF (American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation): Municipalities with Smokefree Park Laws (17 pages, October 2, 2017)
- From NJGASP (Global Advisors Smokefree Policy): List of Municipal and County Smokefree Parks and Recreation Area Policies in NJ, (7 pages, June 24, 2015)
Sample Local Municipal Park Smoking Ban Ordinances:
As of October 2, 2017, New Jersey had 178 municipalities that banned smoking in local parks.
- Fines vary by local municipalities ranging from as low as $50 to as much as $1000.
- In some cases, a fine and community service may be given to violators.
- In one town jail time may be given to violators depending on the severity of the offense.
As of June 24, 2015, 13 New Jersey Counties have banned smoking on properties owned or leased by the governing agency. Violators would be subject to a $250 fine on their first offense, $500 on their second, and $1,000 each on subsequent offenses.
As of January 16, 2019, 50 New Jersey State Parks has banned smoking on properties owned or leased by the State agency. Violating the Act can result in a fine of between $250 and $1,000, depending how many violations one has incurred within a year.
Smoke-free New Jersey Beaches:
- Asbury Park
- Barnegat Light
- Beach Haven
- Bradley Beach
- Cape May Point
- Harvey Cedars
- Long Beach Township
- Long Branch
- North Wildwood
- Ocean City
- Ocean Grove
- Point Pleasant Beach
- Sea Girt
- Seaside Park
- Ship Bottom
- Spring Lake
- Surf City
In 2017 volunteers from Clean Ocean Action did a widespread clean up.
- More than 29,000 cigarette filters was collected
- It is the top 5 garbage that is collected
- More than 1,150 lighters that was collected
- About 1,900 empty cigarette pack collected
- About 7,172 cigar tips collected