A regional Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, launched over the summer in seven Hampton Roads municipalities, reduced the proliferation of butts, cigar tips and tobacco-related litter at selected sites by an average of 74 percent. The results were shared today in a final report by askHRgreen.org, which oversaw the Keep America Beautiful (KAB) grant program as part of its region-wide environmental awareness and education campaign of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC).
“Cigarette butt litter has been documented as the most frequently littered item of waste in the United States. The Hampton Roads program, among KAB’s first Cigarette Litter Prevention Program grants to involve multiple jurisdictions, shows that we can stamp out cigarette litter by using a strategic, regional approach,” said Julia B. Hillegass, askHRgreen.org team leader.
Utilizing “Cigarette Butts = Litter” messaging, outreach events and the placement of cigarette litter receptacles to help turn smokers’ behavior around, the prevention program was conducted for eight weeks, from mid-June to mid-August, at the following project sites:
• 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 – City Hall Plaza
• Portsmouth – nTelos Wireless Pavilion
• Suffolk – Downtown in the Main Street area
• Virginia Beach – Lake Smith/Lake Lawson Natural Area, off Northampton Blvd.
In a pre-scan of the sites, volunteers found 3,223 cigarette butts and plastic cigar tips. The post-scan showed that all project sites saw a dramatic difference in the reduction of litter, with a total average decrease in cigarette litter of 74 percent among all the sites. Portsmouth’s nTelos Wireless Pavilion showed the largest decrease in cigarette litter (95 percent), followed by Suffolk’s Downtown Business District (93 percent), Newport News Business District (83 percent), Norfolk’s City Hall Plaza (73 percent), Virginia Beach’s Lake Smith/Lake Lawson Natural Area (69 percent), Hampton’s Buckroe Beach (58 percent) and the James City County commuter lot (46 percent).
As part of the $12,500 KAB grant, the Hampton Roads localities were provided with 35 new free-standing and wall-mounted cigarette butt receptacles to be placed in strategic site locations, in addition to 4,000 hand-held pocket ashtrays and 1,000 portable auto ashtrays to be distributed to adult smokers. Additional project resources were provided by askHRgreen.org, which contributed new signage, guiding smokers to the receptacles, and educational materials, emphasizing the impact of cigarette butt litter.
Regional Approach Makes Hampton Roads Project Unique
In the past, most KAB Cigarette Litter Prevention Program grants have been awarded to individual KAB affiliates or municipalities. This askHRgreen.org project was unique in that it involved multiple municipalities, working under the direction of a project leader, John Deuel, with the help of the HRPDC’s askHRgreen.org team. On behalf of the participants, Deuel developed the program strategies, conducted training, organized regular meetings, visited the project sites and developed the final report.
“The success of this project demonstrates the value of a regional approach, which helps to reduce cigarette litter in more places over a shorter period of time,” said Deuel.
Project leaders agreed. In a follow-up survey, 87 percent said that consolidating the reporting and coordinating the grant budget and procurement saved them time, freeing them up to focus more on implementing the project strategies. They also said they felt more motivated because they were trying to help the group succeed, received more support for running their projects and enjoyed the camaraderie of working with their peers.
“By having a regional grant, we were able to have a uniform message, consistent with all the localities. This makes the messaging stronger and allows each of us to connect to a wider audience,” said one project participant in the final report. “My favorite aspect of having the grant conducted this way was to be able to see how other localities were handling the same initiative and being able to ask them for assistance.”
The askHRgreen.org Cigarette Litter Prevention Program report can be viewed here: http://askhrgreen.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CLPPReportV.pdf
What You Can Do to Prevent Cigarette Litter
• Smokers can identify a cigarette butt receptacle before lighting up, carry a pocket ashtray, and never throw butts out of car windows
• Businesses can provide receptacles outside their buildings, educate employees about their responsibility for a clean and safe working environment and participate in an “adopt-a-spot” program to clean up public places
• Community Members can implement their own Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Littler Prevention Program. For info go to www.preventcigarettelittler.com
• Recycling Butts? Yes You Can! TerraCycle, working with the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, turns cigarette waste into industrial products such as plastic pallets. They accept butts, filters, loose tobacco pouches, outer plastic packaging, inner foil packaging, rolling paper and ash. Simply collect the debris in a plastic bag and ship it to the company for recycling. For every pound of waste collected, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company donates $1 toward the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program. Details at www.terracycle.com.
Get Involved Join the #NoCigaretteLitterNow conversation on social media. Tweet us at @HRGreen and let us know how you are helping to spread the “Cigarette Butts = Litter” message.