Presentation Title

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

Session Title

Plastic in the Salish Sea

Conference Track

Fate and Effects of Pollutants

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (2016 : Vancouver, B.C.)

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type of Presentation

Oral

Abstract

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.

Rights

This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

Type

Text

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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.