The production and consumption of tobacco leaves a wake of devastation for both people and the planet. On May 3rd, students from several Wheat Ridge area schools participated in the cleanup of Crown Hill and Discovery Parks during the 3rd annual Cigarette Butt Pick-Up organized by Jeffco PTA and Jeffco Public Health. Collectively, the students picked up: 4,996 cigarette butts from two parks in 45 minutes! The Butt Pick-Up helped to raise awareness about the impact of tobacco on the environment and to involve young people in the movement to create a healthier, tobacco-free community in Wheat Ridge. By participating in the event, students had the opportunity to engage with their community, connect to the natural world by cleaning up their local park and hear about leadership opportunities. Click here to check out more photos from the event. This event also highlighted the negative impact that tobacco production and litter have on our natural environment:
- It is estimated that several trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year, 1 flicked one at a time on our sidewalks, beaches, nature trails, gardens and other public places. In fact, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world with an estimated 845,000 tons of butts littered globally each year.2
- Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate tow, not cotton and they can take decades to degrade.3 Not only does cigarette litter ruin even the most picturesque setting, but the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment and dangerous for animals and people. In addition, littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal.
- Research conducted by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that cigarette debris is responsible for killing at least one million sea birds and 100,000 mammals annually,4 and a recent study led by Elli Slaughter of San Diego State University shows that when cigarette butts enter the water supply, they are deadly to fish and marine life. 5
- Tobacco production is also responsible for global deforestation, requiring nearly 600 million trees annually to provide fuel for drying tobacco. That means one tree is destroyed for every 300 cigarettes produced. 6