Proposed Abstract Title

Hiding in plain sight: the prevalence of toxic cigarette litter and opportunities for litter prevention

Type of Presentation

Oral

Session Title

Plastic in the Salish Sea

Location

2016SSEC

Description

Cigarette filters are the most common form of litter found on beaches in the Salish Sea, as reported by environmental volunteer groups. The common misperception that cigarette filters are biodegradable and harmless is a persistent fallacy that contributes to their presence as the #1 item littered globally[1]. Cigarette filters are made of plastic, and contaminants leaching from just one filter kills fish in a matter of hours.[2] Since 2013, Surfrider volunteers in Victoria and Seattle have worked to prevent cigarette litter with the “Hold On To Your Butt” initiative. As part of this initiative, research was done to better understand behavior of smokers in parks and at beaches. Our research measured the quantity of cigarette litter in 11 Seattle parks and beaches, and their proximity to trash receptacles before and after a smoking ban went into effect. Two trends emerged. One, cigarette litter is positively correlated with distance to trash receptacles, suggesting most smokers make little effort to travel to a trash receptacle, even when trash receptacles are in sight. Two, cigarette litter concentrated immediately next to trash receptacles, indicating smokers who want to dispose of the litter responsibly may fear setting trash receptacles on fire. These results indicate that outreach and education to smokers paired with distribution of public and personal fire-proof cigarette receptacles is needed. Additionally, analysis of outreach materials distributed by other environmental non-profits and agencies reveals that cigarette litter is entirely absent from water quality programs. This research reveals a clear opportunity to improve water quality in the Salish Sea.

Comments

[1] Trash Free Seas Report. Ocean Conservancy. 2015.

[2] Slaughter, E. et al. Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish. Tobacco Control. 2011 May; 20(Suppl_1): i25–i29.

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Hiding in plain sight: the prevalence of toxic cigarette litter and opportunities for litter prevention

2016SSEC

Cigarette filters are the most common form of litter found on beaches in the Salish Sea, as reported by environmental volunteer groups. The common misperception that cigarette filters are biodegradable and harmless is a persistent fallacy that contributes to their presence as the #1 item littered globally[1]. Cigarette filters are made of plastic, and contaminants leaching from just one filter kills fish in a matter of hours.[2] Since 2013, Surfrider volunteers in Victoria and Seattle have worked to prevent cigarette litter with the “Hold On To Your Butt” initiative. As part of this initiative, research was done to better understand behavior of smokers in parks and at beaches. Our research measured the quantity of cigarette litter in 11 Seattle parks and beaches, and their proximity to trash receptacles before and after a smoking ban went into effect. Two trends emerged. One, cigarette litter is positively correlated with distance to trash receptacles, suggesting most smokers make little effort to travel to a trash receptacle, even when trash receptacles are in sight. Two, cigarette litter concentrated immediately next to trash receptacles, indicating smokers who want to dispose of the litter responsibly may fear setting trash receptacles on fire. These results indicate that outreach and education to smokers paired with distribution of public and personal fire-proof cigarette receptacles is needed. Additionally, analysis of outreach materials distributed by other environmental non-profits and agencies reveals that cigarette litter is entirely absent from water quality programs. This research reveals a clear opportunity to improve water quality in the Salish Sea.