Downtown BIA tackles cigarette butt problem

Posing with 30 pounds of cigarette butts picked up off downtown streets are (from left) Doug Anderson, Lary Jackson, Jan Wade of the BIA and Heather Gordon of the BIA. Photo contributed

The Downtown Business Improvement Association (BIA) has started a community wide campaign to help get cigarette butts off our streets, out of our parks and ocean.

Cigarette filters have been named the top ocean microplastics hazard.

We have registered with Teracycle in Ontario, a company which processes and recycles cigarette butts.

We package them up and Teracycle pays the postage. We have now collected about 30 pounds of butts, which is a lot of butts! Once collected, the cigarettes and packaging are separated by composition and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled industrial products, such as plastic pallets. The ash and tobacco are separated out and composted in a specialized process.

We also receive compensation from Teracycle of $1 per pound of waste which can be donated to a cause of our choice.

The BIA started with a popup Bucks for Butts at Spirit Square (pre-COVID) where we paid folks to pick up butts. We then heard about Larry Jackson who cleans up cigarette butts at Dick Murphy Park every day!

He now has a partner, Doug Anderson. Here is their story:

“In 2007 I retired along with my wife Connie and our little wiener dog Miss Jessie back to C. R. and looking for places to walk her, we came across The Spit. It was a beautiful spot but was littered with broken glass, dog feces and lots of trash. We decided to help and started with the glass clean-up, then the feces and finally the trash. We did this for about two years using BBQ tongs. One day I met a man named Doug Anderson who offered me a ‘Picker’ and I was hooked. Thirteen years later going to the Spit for 2-3 hours virtually every day (300-330 days per year) and collecting approximately two grocery bags of garbage every day. Doug and I noticed there were certain spots that had a prolific amount of cigarette butts scattered around. About nine months ago we decided to put out three coffee cans filled with rocks and sand to act as ashtrays. The public responded immediately and as a result we now have 19 cans throughout the park with more to come.”

Our new partner Leanne McIntee who works with KCDC and operates the Mobile Outreach Unit for Health and Support Services ( MOUHHS) van has agreed to work with the Downtown BIA. Her Get the Point team made up of peers with lived experience is busy picking up butts and filling zip lock bags labelled with the adjacent logos. (on page 32).

These bags are then filled and returned by folks who wish to participate in the program. A gift card is provided to the folks who return butt bags to the MOUHSS and are offered another bag to fill! The Downtown BIA also provided NDP pocket ashtrays to give to people who could use them.

The Downtown BIA is looking to partner with other groups and organizations to ramp up this program and have it in place for Earth Day on April 22nd.

We now need to raise funds for the purchase of cigarette butt receptacles.

Jan Wade,

Executive Director, Campbell River Downtown BIA

Campbell River