Stop Throwing Yucky Cigarette Butts On The Ground – Earth Is Not Your Ashtray and Taxpayers Are Paying For It!

Green Ideas — By on April 14, 2013 10:25 am

cigarette butt litter

Did you know that cigarette butt litter makes an impact economically and environmentally in your community? I see it every day and am shocked by drivers who pitch their disgusting cigarette butts out of car windows and on the sidewalks as they are walking from their car to stores and businesses. Doing this is more than littering, it is an environmental hazard.

Here is the reason that cigarette butt litter is a negative issue for more than just aesthetic reasons; cellulose acetate is what makes up the filter on a cigarette. Tragically, it contains trace amounts of cadmium, arsenic, lead and other toxins also. Each of these carcinogens is very slow to degrade, so is damaging to our environment. Each cigarette butt can take up to ten years to decompose, dependent upon environmental conditions. Wildlife also mistakes the butts for food and eat this poison.

When smokers have no concern about discarding cigarette butts and throw them out in inappropriate ways – like tossing them into lakes, out car windows, on to beaches, and on the ground – they are basically throwing these substances directly into the environment. Look at the numbers: 5.5 trillion cigarettes are used worldwide annually. Keep America Beautiful, a national litter prevention not-for-profit, says there is an economic impact of cigarette litter, “Residents and businesses “pick up” the tab. Cigarette butt litter has to be cleaned up. This requires additional sidewalk and street sweeping, greenway and park maintenance, storm drain cleaning, and increased maintenance of storm water filters. And business owners bear the expense of cigarette butt litter cleanup around entrances, exits, sidewalks, and parking lots.”

With the observance of Earth Day around the corner, Legacy has partnered with Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (Leave No Trace) to “Rethink Butts.” To help spread the word about this environmental and public health issue, Legacy and Leave No Trace are providing a range of materials to raise awareness and mobilize action surrounding this toxic problem, including a new set of television and radio Public Service Announcements (see the video below). Infographic and tool kits available in English and Spanish. These materials and more are available at

Another group that is making an effort to clean up butts is Keep America Beautiful’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program (CLPP). It is designed to support local community improvement initiatives for reducing cigarette butt litter. Get step-by-step instructions for implementing a program today and get started making a difference in your community.

Say no to butts — make a difference!

(Parts of this blog post have been republished from an older post in 2009. STILL relevant after all these years!!!!)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Nothing is more disgusting than watching the snow banks in front of bars melt in the spring just to reveal PILES of cigarette butts!

  2. PL says:

    Just as disgusting are those tan plastic end pieces from the little brown cigars (cigarillos?). What a waste! When we do trash clean-ups, it seems that litter from smoking (butts, cigarette boxes,etc) is quite prevalent. Why can’t smokers keep their trash to themselves?!

  3. You said it – horrible stuff! Build a campaign in your community to change things. You can do it! :-)

  4. spindiva says:

    I am with you on the whole cigarette out the window really bugs me. Great post and great blog. I really like it.

  5. It’s horrid. Today at lunch I saw these two 16 year old girls standing outside the Chipotle with cigarette’s hanging out their mouths. Ick. And you know where the butts were going because they weren’t taking them with. Another ick.
    I really wanted to run up and rip them out of the girls’ mouths – I know their mothers would have loved me for it. I would have except for that danged assault charge that would have followed soon after. :-)

  6. Chris says:

    Wow, this a really informed post. You really did you research. 5.5 trillion a day- I never would have guessed that.

  7. It’s true, the Earth is not our ashtray, so please stop throwing your cigarette butts anywhere, considering the fact that smoking is bad for your health, well if you can’t avoid it, at least be responsible enough to throw it on the right place. Law/ordinance should be made that whoever is caught litter cigar butts must be apprehended. But with or without law, still that is not an excuse for us to just throw our litter anywhere we want.

  8. I agree – the best way to stop it from happening would be to get public support. Try the “Keep America Beautiful” initiative I mentioned in the blog post – that’s a great step!

  9. Tim says:

    Yeah, it is pretty disgusting…thanks for sharing some interesting information. In the city you can see lots of butts at subway stations and bus stops. Going one step further…anyone who uses the world as their garbage can…especially anyone who throws trash out their car window needs to be clobbered. There’s no excuse for this lazyness and short sightedness. Thanks for an informative post.

  10. Frasier says:

    I live in a town house in a neigboring south suburb of chicago. The people that live here think they are pretty high class and they drive around with the highest end vehicles. It’s funny how money can buy you a personal trainer, the best clothes and a luxury car. But all the money in the world sure can’t buy you manners. These people don’t pick up after their dogs and smoke like chimneys tossing their cigarette butts everywhere…. Seem like low class people to me ;)

  11. Jennifer Holland says:

    I just think its so bad for our community to suffer all this pain with the litter of cigarettes on the ground. little animals that scury about think those are food but they are not.

  12. All of you certainly said it – DISGUSTING! Let’s get our communities to see it differently!

  13. Dave says:

    You talk about others picking up the cost of cleanup – I used to run the grounds crew for a non-profit research facility in California. Every single afternoon, TWO of us spent 2-3 hours walking the parking lots with a bucket and tongs to pick up butts and random trash.

Leave a Comment