Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Biggest Little Litter Problem in the World

If you were to stop and ask the average person on the street what the biggest litter problem in the world is you would probably receive the reply of "oh it would have to be plastic water bottles". That answer would be a good one because here in the USA we throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour totaling about 38 billion each year, bottles which required 1.5 billion barrels of oil to produce. Although a recent and monumental problem, plastic waters bottles are not the biggest little litter problem.

Another answer you might receive is "soda cans". That would be another good guess, with sixty-five billion aluminum soda cans being used each year and no exact count as to how many are thrown away on beaches and highways. Only about 65% of aluminum cans are currently being recycled.

Other good answers would be: plastic bags, candy and bubble gum wrappers, beer bottles and car tires and the list could go on forever. While all of these are huge litter problems that need to be dealt with, they are still not the answer to the question.

So what IS the answer to what's the biggest little litter problem in the world? CIGARETTE BUTTS.

Worldwide, smokers toss over 4.5 TRILLION cigarette butts each year with about 30% ending up as litter. After the butts gets flicked onto the street, buried in the beach sand or dumped out of car ashtrays while drivers are sitting at red lights, wind, rain and waves carry them into the sewers and ocean. Once in the sewers and oceans, the approximately 4,000 toxic chemicals the cigarette filter was designed to trap leak into and poison our water supplies. While the actual tobacco and paper components decompose rather quickly, the plastic cellulose filters do not break down easily and are mistaken for food by birds and marine life who become poisoned and die by the concentration of toxic chemicals in them.

How can we help change this? Well for starters, where there are particular problem areas in your neighborhood, signs can be posted informing offenders of the effects tossed cigarettes have on the environment. If you personally see someone tossing, try to politely inform them and say something like, here, give it to me and I'll dispose of it safely for you, thanks.

If you use Altoids, instead of tossing the empty metal can, carry it in your pocket to use as your own personal ashtray and later empty into a proper trash receptacle or when you get home.

Check out these sites for personal portable ashtrays that fit right in your pocket or purse, you can buy these for yourself or give as holiday gifts :

ButtsOut Personal Ashtrays

The Swiss Tray

Or get organized in your own communities to purchase these inexpensive outdoor models to place at bus stops and busy corners:

The No Butts Bin Company (variety of styles for outdoor use)

With a little effort we can kick this problem in the sorry, but I HAD to say that, I simply couldn't resist! Please stop groaning......


  1. As an ex-smoker and a long time anti-litter bug, I was often aware of how ez it was to just toss these butts anywhere because it seemed like such a small contibution to the litter problem. I did often think that the cumulative effect must be heavy, but never heard it addressed. After a rough calculation, I dtermined that if I only littered 10%, of the butts that I produced in my life, I personally contributed 40,000+ to the problem. (Yeah I smoked a bunch.)

    I'm sure there is a whole breed of conscientious smokers out there that just need an eye opener. Good job Loretta.


  2. We have been manufacturing a "Litter Quitter" personal extinguishing ashtray for a few years….
    It gives the smoker the means to be considerate and non-littering for 10c…for a reusable business card size pouch..
    Please "be a litter quitter -use a Kippi…"