Last summer, we announced our exciting plans to work as a region to significantly reduce cigarette litter in Hampton Roads. Using a proven project model developed by Keep America Beautiful (KAB), askHRgreen.org, its local government partners and community volunteers organized the “Cigarette Butts = Litter” campaign. We are happy to report that our efforts resulted in reducing cigarette litter by an average of 74 percent in our study areas!
As a result of the unique regional approach used by askHRgreen.org and the meaningful reduction in cigarette litter, KAB presented askHRgreen.org with a National Program Award. Members of the askHRgreen.org Recycling & Beautification Committee were on hand to accept the award at KAB’s national conference, Feb. 1st in Orlando.
The “Cigarette Butts = Litter” project included seven diverse study areas across Hampton Roads. During the project, local teams and volunteers analyzed their sites, installed cigarette waste receptacles in strategic locations and conducted outreach directly to smokers encouraging them to be mindful of their disposal habits and offering them a pocket ashtray or auto ashtray for the cup holder of their vehicle. Study areas for this project included:
- Hampton – Buckroe Beach
- James City County – Commuter parking off Interstate 64 at Croaker Road
- Newport News – Hilton Village at Warwick Blvd. and Main St.
- Norfolk – Civic Plaza
- Portsmouth – nTelos Wireless Pavilion
- Suffolk – Downtown in the Main Street area
- Virginia Beach – Lake Smith/Lake Lawson Natural Area, off Northampton Blvd.
Pre-scans of a portion of each study area revealed a total of 3,223 cigarette butts and plastic cigar tips had been littered on the ground. The post-scans showed that all project sites saw a dramatic decrease in cigarette litter after implementing the project.
|City/County||Type of Project Site||Decrease in Cigarette Litter|
|James City County||Commuter Lot||46%|
|Newport News||Business District||83%|
|Virginia Beach||Park/Natural Area||69%|
Each study area had it’s own challenges. Worth mentioning was the trend of lower rates of change in the study areas that were more natural or less populated. This leads one to believe that smokers may be less likely to dispose of their litter correctly when they are visiting an area or feel like no one is watching their behavior. It’s like that saying “ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching.” Also worth noting is the fact that areas with a strong sense of ownership, namely the business districts, saw fantastic reductions due to the support the program received from local champions: the business owners, workers and community organizations like churches and libraries.