‘Butt pickers’ unite to keep America beautifulMost people would agree that recycling in general makes sense. The paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles we recycle weekly at the curb actually amounts to something.
By: Steve Christen/“The Recycle Guy”, Superior Telegram
Most people would agree that recycling in general makes sense. The paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles we recycle weekly at the curb actually amounts to something.
However, there comes times when we try to recycle something and we question is it worth the effort.
For instance, would it be worth our effort to collect toothpicks or match sticks, a mass of them, then send them off to be recycled. My guess is the average Joe here in Superior would say: “Listen I’m all for helping the environment, but I can’t see how picking up tooth picks is going to make a difference”. I think there is something to that. If we push recycling to this level, we run the risk of losing credibility, and leave the realm of common sense and enter the realm of fanatic.
With that in mind, I want to bring up a bill introduced by New York Assemblyman Michael DenDekker wherein New York a smoker would pay a 1-cent deposit on each cigarette purchased. This deposit would be redeemed in the form of credits that can be donated to various charities of choice. That’s right, “redeemed.”
This legislation would establish a cigarette butt recycling program. Typically I look forward to advances in the recycling industry, but I got to tell you, this just seems to be over the top. I can’t believe the amount of cigarette butts is going to make a difference in the life of a landfill.
Let me tell you though, this idea has some legs to it. A company by the name of TerraCycle out of New Jersey has teamed up with Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company to launch the first U.S cigarette waste recycling program. To become a member of the “Cigarette Waste Brigade”, simply go to TerraCycle’s website to sign up. Once a member you become an official “Butt Picker.”
TerraCycle will pay for the shipping of all these butts and will donate $1 for every pound to the “Keep America Beautiful” anti-cigarette litter program.
Most people believe the unused portion of a cigarette is biodegradable. For the most part, you would be right. The part that is not is the filter. The filter is made of a plastic called cellulose acetate. While the paper and unused tobacco can be composted, this cellulose acetate can be melted down and is now being used to make pallets. These are the wooden platforms used to ship goods on commercially; you probably burned hundreds of them as a kid on Saturday nights down on Wisconsin Point while you were in high school.
Let’s examine this, because it would appear that for once smoking would benefit everybody.
The tobacco industry is happy; for once, they get some decent publicity and they contribute to TerraCycle.
TerraCycle in turn gives the volunteers —butt pickers — points that can then be redeemed as contributions to charities. Sidewalks and roadsides start looking cleaner.
Last, but not least, TerraCycle gets to sell remanufactured recycled products to the likes of companies like Wal-Mart and Lowes.
Holy smokes, if it wasn’t for the fact that smoking can eventually kill you, you’d think that this would be the perfect vice.
To date, more than 2,500 people and organizations have signed up. These volunteer butt pickers, have collected over 800,000 butts which in turn has generated some $800 to the keep America Beautiful.
Articles have been written on this movement in The Washington Post, Tobacco China and Treehugger.com .
Now I may be wrong, (Just ask my wife or any of the fine ladies I work with) but this just seems a little over the top. I have seen people picking aluminum pop and beer cans from alongside the road, and that makes sense to me. I’ve seen kids collecting newspaper and magazines for recycling at New Page in Duluth, and that I understand. But, the idea of picking up cigarette butts and emptying ashtrays, then boxing them up and shipping them across county, just doesn’t quite make it with me. This whole endeavor sounds tedious and back breaking not to mention dirty and filthy. At the same time; however, in a recent litter survey “Keep America Beautiful” found that by far the biggest waste on the roadsides of America were cigarettes and other tobacco related items.
As with all social issues, I’m sure there are many opinions on this. I would be most interested in thoughts of those who read this article. I am very interested on your take. I may use some of your opinions in an upcoming article.
Please comment to “The Recycle Guy” at email@example.com if you wish to opine.