The LIttle of Cigarette Butts

Why is it O.K. to Litter Cigarette Butts?

I occasionally pedal along the I-205 bike path for a recovery ride or when the frosty weather keeps our group from heading up into the hills.  The other week we were passing by the Gateway MAX station when we came upon a group of folks standing on the bike path.  They were standing there to smoke since smoking is prohibited at MAX stations.

When I looked down at the ground, it was carpeted with cigarette butts the entire stretch of the MAX station.  This started a conversation on why it’s o.k. to litter cigarette butts.  We came to the conclusion that it’s o.k. because most people don’t say otherwise.

Say Something

I used to love walking downtown with my co-worker, Peggy.  I admire her because she’s fine with speaking her mind and several times she’d say the following when witnessing someone littering a cigarette butt:

Excuse me, you dropped something.”  The person would turn around, startled and searching the ground for something like a wallet.  Peggy would then take that opportunity to point directly at the littered butt.  It was funny, sad, and uncomfortable all wrapped up into one beautiful moment.  It made me admire Peggy’s ability to state the obvious.  Why on earth is it acceptable to throw cigarette butts on the ground?

What’s the Most Littered item in America?

You got it.  Cigarette butts. Here’s a little snippet from

It is estimated that several trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year. That’s billions of cigarettes flicked, one at a time, on our sidewalks, beaches, nature trails, gardens, and other public places every single day. In fact, cigarettes are the most littered item in America and the world. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate tow, NOT COTTON, and they can take decades to degrade. Not only does cigarette litter ruin even the most picturesque setting, but the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment, and littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal.

The I-205 Bike Path at the Gateway MAX Station is a sea of cigarette litter.

1 reply
  1. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    I’ve often fantasized a deposit of 5¢ per cigarette butt. It’d be an administrative nightmare and would probably encourage “smuggling” from non-deposit jurisdictions, but the idea of it still makes me smile.

    More seriously, I’ll note that littering cigarette butts is actively encouraged in some parts of town. When I worked in the Pittock Block (SW Washington at 10th), I asked some co-workers why they threw their butts in the street gutter. They replied that the building manager told them to do it. The building had tried to provide trash cans with those built-in ash trays, but some of the indigent population treated them like human litter boxes. It was actually more sanitary to rely on the street sweepers than to provide receptacles. Weird, but true.

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