Sunday, September 16, 2012


Did you know that according to Keep America Beautiful, Inc. cigarette products comprise 38% of all roadside litter?  The same people that would never consider tossing trash such as soda cans, plastic water bottles, or fast food wrappers out of their car window do not consider it littering to  flick a cigarette butt to the ground. Over the last 26 years that the International Coastal Clean-up has been documenting and categorizing the trash and litter picked up on it's annual clean-up days more than 53 million cigarette butts have been picked up by volunteers.  This is enough cigarette butts to fill up 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools.  Now if you are a smoker (as I was 25 years ago) please understand I am not in any way wanting to stand in the way of your choice to breathe smoke.  I am simply  asking that once you breathe that smoke - is it asking too much that you would dispose of the cigarette butt properly?  That means throwing the cigarette butt out of your car window, flicking it on to the ground, or for heaven's sake using our precious pristine beaches for your ashtray is wrong wrong wrong.

This past Saturday I joined with my community on Englewood Beach for the 27th Annual International Coastal Clean-up Day.  We linked litter grabbers & work-gloved hands with 1,000's of other volunteers across Florida, the USA, and the entire globe cleaning up our community's lakes, rivers, and coastlines.  What was most encouraging was all the young people involved. Hopefully this is inspiring awareness to a younger generation of how the simple act of cleaning up after yourself can improve our planet.  There were girl scouts, a locally founded group called Kids Creating Change, and business people who organized the local event called Lemon Bay/Myakka Trail Scenic Highway walking Englewood Beach and picking up litter and debris, a lot of which was on the wrack line which means it probably came from the Gulf of Mexico and was washed in from the latest storm.  The Capri Sun straw wrappers & soda cans were easy to pick up.  The 1,000's of cigarette butts - not so much.

Cigarette butt litter is a huge environmental issue with a global impact - it is both unsightly and unhealthy in so many ways.  Cigarette butts are not bio-degradable as some misinformed smokers may think.  As the discarded butts lay on the ground toxins from the tobacco leach into the soil and the ground water eventually  harming all living things in it's path.  Cigarette butts on the beach are mistaken for food by birds.  Cigarette butts flicked into the water are ingested by fish, turtles, & dolphins causing harm to them as well. I wouldn't want my kids playing in a sandbox full of cigarette butts on the playground so why would the beach be any different?   On Earth Day 1971 a commercial of a Native American shedding a tear over the garbage and pollution carelessly littering our land changed me as a little girl.  I never looked at litter the same way again. Maybe we can't change all the pollution and litter problems but don't curse the darkness - light a candle by picking up litter and trash when you see it.  It's very simple really - just clean up after yourself. 

 CLICK HERE For some great ideas for building awareness and cleaning up cigarette litter in your community. 

(Credit:  Ocean Conservancy 2012)
Top Ten Items Found  compiled from 25 years of collection data kept by Ocean Conservancy who sponsors the annual International Coastal Clean-up Day.
Girl scouts crisscrossed the beach picking up food wrappers, hair ties, and hundreds of cigarette butts.

My clean-up buddy was Caitlyn  - founder of Kids Creating Change.  Caitlyn is an ordinary kid doing extraordinary things in her community.  In the last year the club she founded has collected toys to send to a local children's hospital, held a school supply drive for kids that are less fortunate, & sponsored a fun summer event at a local skate park to promote some drug-free fun.  Kids Creating Change sponser beach clean-ups throughout the entire year not just on official clean-up days.  It all started with Caitlyn's  first blanket drive for the homeless when she was in 5th grade.  Undaunted by any challenge in her community, she has a positive can-do attitude that is ready to be the change that is needed.

(Credit:  Kids Creating Change)
Just one of the two jugs full of butts from Englewood Beach collected at a past beach clean-up by Kids Creating Change.

This "Y" shaped piece of coral that Caitlyn found on the beach  is begging the answer to the question
"Why do people use the beach for an ashtray?". 


  1. Great post Karen! My husband has a portable, lidded ashtray in the car that attaches to the drivers door. All his butts go in there. Every little bit helps, right?

  2. Great post! I did my version of Coastal Clean Up on the Atlantic side this past weekend. I can't believe the amount of plastic I picked up, and yes there were a lot of butts. For every handful of trash I picked up, I found a handful of treasure. Karma is so cool!

  3. I'm so proud of all of you for working so hard to make the beach beautiful and safe. Sending you a few extra hugs today!

  4. Way to go Karen! Good info and a BIG Bravo to Caitlyn!

  5. I had no idea there were that many cigarette butts around! Very informative post, and thought provoking too. Leaving trash laying around has always been a pet peeve of mine. Hooray for the work all of you did!

  6. A teaching post, awesome Karen! You're the best.


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