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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Get Your Butt Off the Sidewalk

I needed to catch up on my resolution to pick up at least 5 pieces of trash a day, so I decided to use yesterday's GORGEOUS WEATHER as an excuse to make up for lost time. Trash bag in hand, I made my way up and down my side of my block for about an hour and a half picking up litter. I mean, I knew there was an excessive amount of trash on my block, but I had no idea there could be so much. The most common thing I found was discarded cigarette butts. The most uncommon thing I found was a bio-hazard bag (ugh. . . I didn't realize what it was until I'd grabbed it by one of its corners. . . mental note, wear gloves next time I help clean up my block).

I am ecstatic that DC has gone smoke free in its bars and restaurants (I've got my fingers crossed that we'll go trans-fat free, too, soon, but that's a different story). But with the smoking ban in effect, restaurants and bars are going to have to be vigilant in accommodating and taking responsibility for their smoking patrons. By far, the highest concentration of cigarette butts I picked up was in front of a restaurant, and I noticed no cigarette receptacle by the restaurant's front door.

That's not to say that I didn't find a hell of a lot of cigarette and cigar butts on the rest of the block. Smokers need to be much more responsible, too: cigarette butts ARE trash and should be discarded as such rather than thrown on the ground or in a tree bed. Here are a few annoying facts about cigarette butts that are worth stressing:

1. Cigarettes are the most littered item in America and the world. Source

2. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable in the sense that most people think of the word. The acetate (plastic) filters can take many years to decompose. Smokers may not realize that their actions have such a lasting, negative impact on the environment. Source.

3. "[Cigarette butts] also present a threat to wildlife. Cigarette filters have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and other marine creatures who mistake them for food ... Composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic, cigarette butts can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic."
Clean Virginia Waterways.

4. They pose a fire hazard. The most common cause of fire related deaths and injuries in the U.S. is careless smoking. While the majority of these cases involve indoor smoking, many of these fires are the result of littered cigarettes, whether tossed out of a car or thrown on the ground by pedestrians. Source.

PHOTO CREDIT: PR Web, available


Golden Silence said...

Good to hear about someone cleaning up their environment. Keep up the good work.

I cannot stand cigarettes and cigarette butts. Ick!

yt said...

You preachin' t' da choir and da deacons be ou'side gettin' they nicotene buzz o'.

Next time I see a whale swimming down 5th St, I'll be sure to remind him or her that cigarette butts aren't good for one's health. ; )

Someone really needs to crack down on the alchoholics dropping their unfinished fo'ties every place but in the garbage cans. In Sydney that brown bag ruse doesn't stop the cops from busting someone.

But it never ceases to amaze me what a few minutes cleaning up the street will can for one's spirit.

si said...

I quit smoking 6 weeks ago, those butts arent mine!
honey please do not touch the trash in the street, that could be bad. when I'm out picking up beer cans & comdoms (now thats really nasty) i have one of those little brooms & dustpan on a stick. really cheap, grocery store sells it. fabulous for neighborhood beautification. Thank you for doing your part!

Shaw Rez said...

Si--you were actually the first person I was going to blame! Congrats on quitting. And don't worry, I will be a little smarter on litter patrol next time (your mini broom/dustpan suggestion is great).

YT--your comment made me laugh. Though littering isn't the most significant criminal issue facing our area, I bet a police crackdown on it could lead to arrests for more significant crimes (e.g., the guy dropping the 40 bottle might sometimes be up to other, more significant malfeasance that would be discovered upon issuing a ticket for littering).

I know I'm following in the footsteps of other good neighborly folks and that my humble efforts to improve the neighborhood echo what y'all have been doing for some time. Hopefully with time, others will also follow.

amanda said...

I love you for this post. I have never understood why otherwise rational, good samaritans, who wouldn't dream of dropping a receipt on the ground, think cigarette butts aren't trash! (I believe a certain someone we both know is guilty.)

Thanks for the stats and the effort to clean up.

On a positive note, Black Cat has several big, new butt receptacles on the sidewalk. D.C.'s on a learning curve with the new ban. We'll get it eventually.

Ray said...

Wait 'til you see the varieties of spent condoms in the gutter. The press-board wall around Lake Woodson makes a perfect venue for beaucoup overnight nookie.

Another conundrum: do you place spent hypodermic needles in the metal or plastic recyling bags?