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Reducing Cigarette Butt Litter in Hampton Roads

« Back to Press Room Sets Sights on Reducing Cigarette Butt Litter in Hampton Roads

Hampton Roads, Va., June 15, 2015) – Seven Hampton Roads localities, in partnership with, are taking part this summer in a national Keep America Beautiful program to reduce the impact of cigarette butt litter in the region.

Focusing on the theme “Cigarette butts = litter,” the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program will be launched this week at these project sites, following a pre-scan of the areas to determine the extent of the cigarette litter.

•  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 Pavilion
•  Suffolk – Downtown in the Main Street area
•  Virginia Beach – Lake Smith/Lake Lawson Natural Area, off North Hampton Blvd.

“Cigarette butt litter has been documented as the most frequently littered item of waste in the United States, and Hampton Roads is no different,” said John Deuel, the project leader of the grant program. “In a pre-scan of the project sites, volunteers found 3,223 cigarette butts and plastic cigar tips. If this amount of cigarette butt litter is happening in just these seven locations, imagine how much litter we’re dealing with throughout the region.”

For the next eight weeks, participating city and county litter prevention employees and volunteers will roll out tactics and messaging at each project site to try to turn smokers’ behavior around. As part of the $12,500 grant, Keep America Beautiful has provided 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 with $5,000, raised from its 2014 Keep Hampton Roads Beautiful Golf Tournament. These funds contributed to new signage, guiding smokers to the receptacles, and educational materials, emphasizing the impact of cigarette butt litter, which will be distributed to smokers during times when the sites are at peak use.

Localities also have invited community members and local business and government representatives, who live near, maintain or use the sites, to advise on where to place the receptacles, when to distribute the ashtrays and the types of awareness techniques that might work best.

The campaign’s approach, according to Deuel, is to get the point across without criticizing individuals for their choice to smoke, but to emphasize that cigarette butts are litter.

According to Keep America Beautiful, cigarette butts represent 38 percent of roadway litter, 32 percent of litter in storm drains and 32 percent of litter in outdoor recreation areas. The filters are not biodegradable because they contain cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that will persist in the environment. The presence of litter in a community can also lead to decreases in property values, while impacting tourism and business development.

“Cigarette butt litter causes problems for the image and aesthetic beauty of both a built environment and a natural environment. It impacts both environment and economics,” said Deuel. “The key to this project is to focus our efforts where people smoke so we capture the most cigarette butt litter possible.”

In late-August, campaign participants will conduct a follow-up scan at each project site to determine if cigarette butt litter has decreased and if so, by how much. A follow-up report will be presented in October to Hampton Roads government officials, and shared with business owners and property managers, as well as to those involved with the Virginia Marine Debris Reduction Plan through the Virginia Coastal Zone Management program.

Communities that implement the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program consistently cut cigarette butt litter by half. The Hampton Roads campaign is unique in that it is being implemented simultaneously in multiple localities. Deuel says the national group is looking at the Hampton Roads project as a pilot program, whose results will be shared in a national report.  

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

•  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. Collect the debris in a plastic bag and ship to the company for recycling. For every pound of waste collected, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company donates $1 toward the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Littler Prevention Program. Details at

•  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.

About is your go-to resource for all things green in Hampton Roads— from recycling tips and pointers for keeping local waterways clean to water-saving ideas and simple steps to make local living easy on the environment. Launched in 2011, the region-wide public awareness and education campaign is administered through the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and powered by the following members: The cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Smithfield, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg; the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, Surry and York; and HRSD. Like on facebook, follow on Twitter, tune in to YouTube and catch the “Let’s Talk Green” blog, written by a team of local experts

About Keep America Beautiful, Inc. 

Keep America Beautiful is the nation’s leading nonprofit that brings people together to build and sustain vibrant communities. With a network of more than 1,200 affiliate and participating organizations including state recycling organizations, they work with millions of volunteers to take action in their communities. Keep America Beautiful offers solutions that create clean, beautiful public places, reduce waste and increase recycling, generate positive impact on local economies and inspire generations of environmental stewards. Through their programs and public-private partnerships, they engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community’s environment. For more information, visit or follow them at @kabtweet on Twitter.


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