Letter: Cigarette butt pick-up report
2. 13. 6. 14,648. $27.34. These numbers are all involved in my cigarette butt picking-up process, which began just over a year ago. I started because I learned that one cigarette butt contaminates 2 gallons of water. Recently, Mary Ann, who also picks up thousands of butts in Mathews, told me that the filter part takes 13 years to decompose. Then Jack sent me info about recycling cigarette butt filters into plastic products, which noted that they are so toxic that they have to be "watered down" by other recycled plastic to a small part of the final product, which can never come in contact with anything that we eat or drink. Cigarette butts leach their poisons into our groundwater or go down the sewer drains into our waterways. Sadly, a few are always picked up by small children or dogs, and sometimes eaten. Others start brush fires.
I doubt that the folks who throw their cigarette butts on the ground realize these problems, or they wouldn’t toss so many on the ground, even right next to trash cans and ash receptacles. I did a quick survey one day and picked up an average of 6 butts within 10 feet of 10 trash cans, five of which had ashtrays built into them.
In one year, I picked up 14,648 butts. Today, I am up to 15,177. I also picked up about 2,000 recyclable items, mostly beer cans and bottles, many bucket loads of trash, and several usable items, as well as $27.34. I estimate that at least 1,000 butts are put on the ground in Mathews every day in the summer, and half that many in the winter.
Since I began picking up cigarette butts, I’ve found out that many other people and businesses are also engaged in cleaning them up, for which I am so grateful. I hope that people will consider changing at least part of the cigarette habit, and not throw them on the ground.