Whether you’re taking a walk in the woods, on the beach or strolling around downtown, it’s always disheartening to see plastic and other litter in the environment. But what can any of us do about it?
The Litter Warriors
The folks at Keep Tennessee Beautiful and Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful are working hard to clean up cigarette litter and teach their fellow Tennesseans how to take action to beautify their communities and maintain a pristine river free of toxic trash. Three key players are Missy Marshall, Executive Director of Keep Tennessee Beautiful, Edmond McDavis III, Communications Coordinator of KTnB, and Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful. Recently, all three sat down to chat with Open Space Radio.
To hear about these Litter Warriors’ inspiring work, check out their interview on the National Recreation & Park Association's Open Space podcast.
Raising Awareness is Key
In New Hanover County, North Carolina, Dick Brightman is also doing his part through Keep New Hanover Beautiful. With assistance from KAB’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, Brightman is determined to tackle the most challenging issue of all: raising awareness that cigarette buts are the Number One, Most Littered Item in the world. “When we discovered the TerraCycle program, cigarette butt recycling became a terrific environmental effort that helps eliminate discarded butts from our streets and waterways, as well as help reduce stress on our landfill.”
“How Can We Not Act Responsibly?”
To maintain and empty the Sidewalk Buttlers in his community, Brightman has organized a variety of helpers — from college kids to homeless people. All the butts that Brightman's crews collect are sent to TerraCycle, because recycling is the true end game of collecting discarded butts and keeping them out of the environment! In these days when environmental concerns are more urgent than ever, Brightman asks, “How can we not act responsibly?”
I spoke with Dick recently about an interview he did with TerraCycle. When I told him I hadn’t seen anything about it in the news, he said the reason the interview didn’t get more media attention is because (he was told) “Cigarette litter isn’t sexy.” (More about this conundrum below!)
Still, Brian Hanck of TerraCycle cites some very impressive stats based on Brightman's efforts: "Keep New Hanover County Beautiful is 19th overall at sending in Cigarette Waste for recycling which includes businesses (Casinos and Cruise Ships) as well as other major municipalities (Pittsburgh, PA and Grand Rapids. MI)." To date, Brightman and his crews of Litter Warriors have placed 140 Buttlers throughout New Hanover County, and collected and recycled over 650 pounds of cigarette butts.
What's more, TerraCycle has collected hundreds of millions of cigarette butts globally and has engaged over 100 million people across 21 countries to collect and recycle more than four billion pieces of waste that were otherwise non-recyclable. That's simply amazing!
The Butt Lady of Auburn, California
Sally Dawly is a retired school bus driver who never thought that she’d be spending her Golden Years ridding the streets of toxic cigarette butt litter. But that’s exactly what’s she’s been doing since 2014, sometimes for up to seven hours a day. ”I got tired of seeing all the cigarette butts in the streets during my daily walk,” she said, so she grabbed a dust pan and broom and hit the streets.
Below, Sally Dawly in action!
To date, this Environmental Superhero has personally been responsible for removing 1,392,000 butts out of the environment. A great way to get your steps in and beautify your daily walk, wouldn’t you agree?
A Network Dedicated to Our Healthy Planet
People often ask me what’s the best part of my job at Sidewalk Buttler. Well, aside from working side-by-side with my husband Mike, it’s being part of an amazing network of dedicated people across the country working hard to keep our planet clean and green for generations to come. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Your Challenge, Should You Choose to Accept It
And as one final note, I have a challenge for you, dear reader: How do we make eliminating cigarette litter “sexy” enough for our friends, neighbors, community, and the media, to pay attention to the problem? Let me know in the comments section below or email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature you in a future blog!